Skip to main content

The football community has seen the passing of numerous well-known figures in the sport in 2020, including two men forever associated with a Miami Dolphins powerhouse by which all subsequent NFL champions have come to be measured.

Don Shula and Jim Kiick were part of the Miami Dolphins’ 17-0 season

Don Shula died May 4, 2020, at the age of 90, leaving behind a coaching legacy that included 328 regular-season victories, 347 triumphs overall, and only two losing seasons in 33 years on the sideline.

Shula coached the Baltimore Colts to one NFL championship and the Miami Dolphins to a pair of Super Bowl crowns. The 1972 Dolphins posted the NFL’s first 17-0 record, an achievement yet to be matched. Miami followed that 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins for the championship by beating the Minnesota Vikings, 24-7, the next year in Super Bowl VIII.

One of the offensive stalwarts for those Dolphins teams was running back Jim Kiick, who died June 20, 2020, at the age of 73. Kiick played in the AFL, NFL, and World Football League, but he was best known for being paired with Larry Csonka in the Dolphins backfield. He ran for 521 regular-season yards in the Dolphins’ perfect season and rushed for four touchdowns in the three playoff games.

Kiick finished his career with 3,759 rushing yards and 33 scores.

More notable NFL deaths in 2020

Fred Dean, the Hall of Fame defensive end for the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, died Oct. 14 from the coronavirus. He was 68. Dean was a four-time Pro Bowler and twice named All-Pro before retiring in 1985.

Gale Sayers, the legendary Hall of Fame running back for the Chicago Bears. died on Sept. 23 at the age of 77. Though injuries limited him to five full seasons and just seven overall, Sayers was electrifying. As a rookie, he set an NFL record by scoring 22 touchdowns, including six in one game.

Larry Wilson, a Hall of Fame safety for the St Louis Cardinals who later served as an assistant coach and general manager, died Sept. 18 at the age of 82. Wilson made eight Pro Bowl appearances in 13 seasons with the Cardinals beginning in 1960 and was named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team in 2019.

Carlton Haselrig, a Pro Bowl right guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 1990s and the only wrestler in NCAA history to win six individual national championships, died July 22. Haselrig, who had been in declining health in recent years, was 54.

Haselrig, who didn’t play college football after suffering an injury during his freshman year at Lock Haven, spent five years in the NFL. His career was cut short in the mid-1990s due to alcohol and substance abuse issues. He captured the Division II wrestling titles in 1987-89, advancing to the Division I tournament each time and winning.

Joe Bugel, 24-56 in five seasons coaching the Phoenix Cardinals and Oakland Raiders, died on June 28. He was 80. Bugel was in coaching for 32 seasons, including 15 years in two stints as an assistant with the Washington Redskins.

Phil Krueger, an assistant for 1967 national champion USC and later part of the first Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff, died June 22 at the age of 90. Krueger was 31-22 as a head coach at Fresno State and Utah State. When the Buccaneers reorganized their operations in 1991, he became the team’ first general manager.

Ken Riley, a 15-year cornerback who had 65 interceptions for the Cincinnati Bengals, died June 7 at the age of 72. After retirement, Riley would go on to coach and serve as the athletic director at Florida A&M.

Mike Curtis, twice a first-team All-Pro middle linebacker for the Baltimore Colts in the late 1960s, died April 20. He was 77.

Willie Davis, a five-time first-team All-Pro for the Green Bay Packers enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died on April 15 at the age of 85.

Tarvaris Jackson, who made 34 starts at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks from 2006-15, died on April 12. He was 36.

Bobby Mitchell, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who was the Washington Redskins’ first black player and a four-team Pro Bowl selection, died on April 5. He was 84.

Tom Dempsey, who converted a then-record 63-yard field goal for the 1970 New Orleans Saints, died on April 4 at the age of 73.

Willie Wood, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back and five-time NFL champion with the Green Bay Packers, died on Feb. 3 at the age of 83.,

Larry Eisenhauer, a first-team All-Pro defensive lineman for the Boston Patriots three times in the 1960s, died Jan. 29. He was 79.

Chris Doleman, a Pro Football Hall of Fame pass rusher who finished his career in 1999 with 150.5 sacks and was selected to eight Pro Bowls, died on Jan. 28. He was 58.

Sam Wyche, 84-107 as coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1984-95, died on Jan. 2. He was 74.

Notable college football deaths in 2020

John Blake, a University of Oklahoma nose guard for Barry Switzer who went on to coach his alma mater from 1996-98, died July 23 at the age of 59. Blake served as a college and NFL assistant before landing the Sooners’ top job at age 34, becoming the university’s first Black head coach in any sport.

Reche Caldwell, who spent seven seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver after a stellar career at the University of Florida, was shot and killed in Tampa on June 6. Caldwell, who was 41, made 141 catches with 18 TDs over three seasons with the Gators. 

Johnny Majors, who coached Pitt to a national championship in 1976 and later guided Tennessee to three SEC titles, died on June 3 at the age of 85. Majors, who also coached at Iowa State, was 116-62-8 at Tennessee and 185-137-10 overall. He earned enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1987.

Pat Dye, 153-62-5 in 17 years as the coach at Auburn, Wyoming, and East Carolina, died June 1 at the age of 80. He was Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Frank Maloney, a Michigan offensive lineman from 1959-61 who went on to coach under Bo Schembechler before becoming head coach at Syracuse University, died March 30. He was 79.

Woody Widenhofer, a long-time coach at Michigan State and Eastern Michigan as well as the Detroit Lions, died on March 22. He was 77.

George Perles, who served as Michigan State’s football coach and athletic director, died Jan. 7 at the age of 85. He compiled a 73-62-4 record from 1983-94.


Don Shula’s Death Highlights Bill Belichick’s Impossible Odds to Overtake the Dolphins Legend