Dolphins Legend Recounts Hilarious Time When Teammates Snuck Alligator Into Don Shula’s Shower

Don Shula Miami Dolphins

The death of former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula brought forth a story from Manny Fernandez, who recounted a hilarious tale involving an alligator during the team’s glory days in the 1970s.

Barry Jackson spoke with former Dolphins players who played under Shula and recalled a variety of memories. Fernandez discussed his role in a notorious story that involved placing an alligator in the shower within Shula’s office.

“[Bill] Stanfill caught the alligator, Larry [Csonka] kept his (Shula’s) secretary busy, and I snuck in and put it in his shower,” Fernandez said. “We taped the gator’s mouth shut so it wouldn’t leave him in danger. He ran down the hall naked with a towel screaming for [equipment manager] Danny to get the alligator out of his shower.”

Later that day, the three culprits nearly gave themselves away with Shula likely sensing that they were the guilty parties.

“Fernandez, Stanfill, Csonka and the equipment manager were at the Dolphins facility that night, ‘laughing our [butt] off’ about it and saw Shula standing at the door,” Jackson wrote. “Awkward!

“But Shula didn’t discipline them because ‘he couldn’t prove it,’ Fernandez said.”

Last December, Fernandez helped Shula celebrate the coach’s 90th birthday. Fernandez mentioned the alligator incident to Shula, which caused the legendary coach to smile.

Adding to the humorous memory, Fernandez indicated that he gave Shula what the former player described as “a little stuffed alligator.”

Yet, amid the humor, Fernandez took time to note the sadness of Shula’s passing, saying it was a “tough day.”

Fernandez was an undrafted free agent who was starting his third season with the Dolphins when Shula arrived in 1970. While marveling at what Shula accomplished with the Dolphins, Fernandez also noted how pivotal the coach was to his own career.

“He worked his butt off to do what he did,” Fernandez said, reflecting on Shula’s extraordinary career. “He gained everybody’s respect. I feel so fortunate to have had him in my life. I don’t know what kind of a career I would have had without him.”

It’s clear that Shula’s memory will remain strong with Fernandez, who offered a succinct compliment.

“He was,” Fernandez said, “the perfect coach.”

In Shula’s 33 years as an NFL head coach, he won 328 regular season games and 19 postseason contests and remains the league’s all-time winningest coach.