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Dropping the Pounds with Don Shula

(From Kerry Sanders, TODAY Correspondent)**Sunday AM update: This story was shuffled out of our lineup at the last minute: we'll let you know when it gets re-shuffled back in.It's been more than 15 years since I did a one-on-one interview with football coach Don Shula. The last time we chatted it was about sports. Today, it was weight loss. I'll get to that diet story in a moment, but first, a tri

(From Kerry Sanders, TODAY Correspondent)

**Sunday AM update: This story was shuffled out of our lineup at the last minute: we'll let you know when it gets re-shuffled back in.

It's been more than 15 years since I did a one-on-one interview with football coach Don Shula. The last time we chatted it was about sports. Today, it was weight loss. I'll get to that diet story in a moment, but first, a trip back so many years to that sports interview.

I worked for the NBC station in Miami, and never has there been a bigger mismatch of assignments. Let's just say I am not much of a sports fan. Off I went to the airport to do a local report on the Dolphins headed to "the big game."  I don't remember the details, but I remember it was "a big game." (Question to sports fans: Why are all games "the Big Game?") 

I arrived at the airport with my cameraman, Rudy Marshall, up against a deadline of 45 minutes. We were scheduled to go live and thus far all I saw were airport travelers checking in and dropping off luggage. I looked down below to arrivals, and down one level, I saw the legendary Miami Dolphins coach moving slowly on crutches. I urged Rudy to aim his camera and capture some video. I figured it would be a little cover video. Traveling with Coach Shula was his PR director. The PR man looked up, saw us, and a few minutes later, he was face to face with me ordering me not to air the tape of the coach on crutches. Needless to say, the media doesn't take orders, and I was not going to be told not to air the video. It was a crummy shot, but now that I was being told not to use it, it somehow had greater value. The PR man left. He apparently made a call to the NBC station who advised that ordering me not to air it was a bad move - that I would be more likely than ever to use the tape. I still was never given a reason why they didn't want the tape on the air, perhaps it was fears of a sports metaphor: The Dolphins are hobbled, just like their coach?

Anyway, the PR guy showed up again in my face, this time with a smile. He asked: If I give you a one-on-one with the coach, will you reconsider airing the tape? I had no problem with that, again: it was a lousy shot.

So, off we were whisked, past a dozen other reporters, past security, into the airport where the team was waiting to board. The coach came out, laid down his crutches and said, "OK. Let's do this."

At this exact moment, I realized I know nothing about football, and I had no idea what to ask. So, I pulled deep into the attic of cliché sports questions and asked: Do you have any surprises for the other team this weekend?

Coach: If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?

Hmmm, ok, back to the attic: Will it be more of an air game or ground game?

Coach: What do you think? Marino is our quarterback.

I had no idea, but quickly, I needed another question. I reached, and pulled out the old, Do you think weather will be a factor?

Coach: I don't think so, it's an indoor stadium.

OUCH!

At 77 years old, now retired, Don Shula and his wife Mary Anne enjoyed a good laugh at that story. Today, we sat and talked about diets, but with Coach Shula, you're never too far from football. He and his wife have collectively lost 55 pounds. They're both paid to promote Nutrisystem, so we discussed the food, and the routine of the diet plan. But, as you'd expect, Coach found losing weight is not far from his years at the NFL.

"Discipline, discipline, discipline," he says. If you stick to your diet plan - whatever that may be - avoid the bread and butter before the meal, skip desserts, eat small portions and exercise, you'll lose weight. The difficulty, as we all know, is sticking to it. Don and his wife Mary Anne have followed their plan and lost the weight.

I was inspired: beginning tonight, no more desserts.

What? My neighbor just dropped off a key lime pie, made with fresh key limes from her tree? Coach, what do I do? It would be so rude not to eat just one slice, no?

Of course, therein lies why our nation is too fat: No discipline. It's why, perhaps, even a non sports-fan like me knows that only one coach has ever had a perfect NFL season.

Yes, that coach was Don Shula.

See Kerry Sanders' Interview with Coach Shula Sunday on TODAY.