Undefeated ’72 Dolphins, Don Shula, Life After Football and More!

Super Bowl Legend Larry Csonka

Catalyst - Health, Wellness & Performance Podcast

Full Transcript

Dr. Cooper

Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. But today just a kid, we have an extra special guest to tie into this weeks, super bowl episode. When I was growing up, Larry Csonka was one of my favorite athletes. In his mid twenties, he led the Miami Dolphins to the only undefeated season in NFL history. A Mark that still stands almost 50 years later. His power and determination were a sight to see. And, and he was even a guest star on my favorite TV show at the time, which of course was the $6 million man. Now at age 74, he continues to live a very active life and provided some wonderful insights for all of us when it comes to health, wellness, and performance, along with a fun little trip down memory lane. On the coaching front, if you’re looking to pursue your health and wellness coaching certification, including if desired the NBHWC national board certification, your next two opportunities are March 20th and 21st or June 5th and 6th. Now most of our programs fill up early. So please don’t wait too long to register. If this is important to you, all the details at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com or feel free, reach out to us anytime we can answer all your questions, spend some time chatting about it. It’s [email protected]. For everyone else, don’t miss our growing library of health, wellness and performance videos at youtube.com/coaching channel, including early access to many of our podcast guests. And this is one of them. Now let’s take a walk down memory lane and what it means for our own lives on the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching podcast. It is very much my pleasure today to welcome Larry Csonka to the Health and Wellness Coaching podcast. Thanks for joining us today, this is so much fun.

Larry Csonka

It’s fun be here with you, Brad, and we got quite a history. We go back a long way.

Dr. Cooper

Yes, we do. I was showing Larry some of the pictures that the dolphins sent me. I was a native of Denver, Colorado cheering for the Miami dolphins with every ounce of my heart. And I won’t share all the embarrassing stories around that, but, but let’s do start off by getting a little nostalgic here. 2022 will mark 50 years since your dolphins became the only team in NFL history to go undefeated. Now, I did not realize this. You entered the super bowl 16 and 0 obviously, but you were underdogs, underdogs to the Redskins. What do you remember? We talked a lot about mental toughness and resilience, that kind of stuff on this show. What do you remember going through your head in the moments leading up to kickoff on a game where you’re undefeated, but you’re the underdog?

Larry Csonka

Well, quite frankly, um, we were so concentrated on getting back to the Superbowl, the success we had an opportunity to obtain in Superbowl seven came off the initiative from super bowl six, where we got our butts kicked royally by the Dallas Cowboys. From that game forward, we had a driving force named Shula and right after super bowl six, he got us in the locker room and said, I want you to remember what this feels like, because he had lost the super bowl to Joe years before. So he knew he knew the road and how it was going to be. He said, starting here. We want a total commitment each week. We want to make the super bowl every week. That’s what led to the undefeated season. Nobody ever talked about winning them all, that was a seasonal situation, right? Just happened because of what happened there. But then we led off. And when we kicked off for that super bowl, to answer your question in seven, we were a little uptight, more than a little, power, was a button to clear up. You know, we had a lot of starch in our collar. We were like, ah, but as the game for a great thing about the game of football, as soon as you hit somebody or get hit by somebody, it loosens things up immediately. Then we started to do what we were best at, and that was concentrate and control the ball. And we had a great, great defense. They called the no-name defense because they were so intelligent and played such fine football. They had five mental errors, the entire season. The no name defense. So once it got rolling and we had control, but it got kind of hairy right there at the end. If you were a fan, you remember the famous pass.

Dr. Cooper

Oh my, yeah. Everybody remembers that.

Larry Csonka

And then 50 years before there had been no one that had done it. And then 51 years or 52 years since hopefully no one else has done it. So it’d be a hundred years or a hundred, one years right now, no one going from the first game to the championship, without losing a game somewhere. We were the only team to do that.

Dr. Cooper

Now you talking about Shula, getting you guys dialed in after you lost to the Cowboys, but frankly, your turnaround that year when you went to the super bowl was pretty tremendous. I might be remembering incorrectly, but it seems like you’d been something like four and 10 the previous year. And then when Shula came in, you flip the dial and suddenly you’re, you’re one of the top teams in the league. What, was it similar type of mindset change?

Larry Csonka

He, you hit it right on the head. Not only our lifestyle, not only our game plan changed our lifestyle changed. He wanted us to dedicate it. He wanted us to eat right sleep right. These are the things that people, you know, you deal with it, people say, Oh yeah, well, I eat right sort of. Wasn’t sort of, you know, he, he laid out the team, uh, diet at training camp explicitly. I mean, he, he was very much into that interest. He was also into punctuality. You know, if he said, you need, the meeting started at eight o’clock, you’d better be there at five til because he shut the door at two minutes til, and you had to beat it down to get in. The other thing he did, this is something that you’ll get a kick out of it. Because if you talk about things that we did, that you can do for yourself individually, as we did as a team, was he, he said, we are going to play football in tropical heat, subtropical heat. So game day is going to be anywhere from 77 degrees to perhaps 91 degrees plus humidity you’ve ever been in the orange bowl at 91 degrees, you can appreciate it because it’s like 130 down on the playing field. So what’s that lead to, you know, you’re a conditioner, you know what I’m talking about? We’ve got to make this team, now I’m quoting Don Shula. We have to re raise an ability in ourselves to be camel like, we have to be able to withstand this heat. So we practice twice a day in training camp. We have practiced at nine o’clock in the morning in full pads. And very often it would be in the high eighties, mid eighties to high eighties. At the time we went out to practice when we’d practice a second time at three o’clock in the afternoon. And sometimes, most often in June and July, August, and September, when those two days took place, it was pushing a hundred degrees, 90, the high nineties to a hundred degrees on the field. And we learn to practice and perform in that. Now, not all the teams that came, but a lot of the teams that came in August, September and early October from winter places, such as Buffalo or New York. You know, you go into that orange bowl. It’s a tiny little place that’s all closed in and it is 95 degrees. And pretty soon you see the other teams, slugging water, like crazy. Well, we never had any water on the practice field. We learned to be camel like. And it didn’t kill us. So therefore we did it. You can’t do that today.

Dr. Cooper

I don’t think you’d get away with that today. Wow. That is so interesting.

Larry Csonka

But it worked for us, it worked.

Dr. Cooper

Interesting. So the, the whole mindset and using these things to sharpen you and make you stronger, it reminds me of another story you talked about in one of your videos, you’re born on Christmas. You talk about being the youngest and the smallest. Now I want everybody to get this perspective. If you don’t know, Larry Csonka, if you’re not over 40 years old right now, and you didn’t just live and die by this guy every Sunday, growing up, then let me give you a perspective. He, last name is Csonka is perfect. The zonk, like he would get the tough yardage. Although we’ll also talk about later, you led the league and yards per carry one year, which is stunning based on your, your, just the way that you ran the ball. But you were the youngest and smallest in your school for years. How did that influence the trajectory of your life? Because the story I heard was pretty doggone fascinating based on where you ended up.

Larry Csonka

Well, when I started at school, I was just five years old. And, uh, you know, because of being on Christmas, you turn, you got to be six before the year changed. So I was, but by five days, so I was the youngest and smallest kid on the bus going to school. We lived out in the country. There’s a lot of, you know, this is in the early fifties, if you will. So there’s a whole social order change, you know, bullying was quite a common thing. And it was tolerated. It was just a fact of life. You know, Butch down the street, beat you up, took your, took your lunch. Things happen like that. You kind of rub, rub some mud on it and get up and go because it was just going to happen. And people didn’t get all upset about it. We didn’t have any meetings and things, not to say that’s bad. That’s good. We’re more conscious of that now but the way it was in the fifties was greatly different. So I just, it just tends to make you a tough kid. You got to where you just got tired of Butch eating your lunch. And one day he just decided to hit him over the head with it, instead of giving it to him and things progressed on that kind of line. But you learn as you grow then one summer between sixth and seventh grade, somewhere in there, my voice changed. I put on 30 pounds and then I went back again

Dr. Cooper

And Butch wasn’t so happy then.

Larry Csonka

Butch, his buddy, anybody who was related to any of them, I became the essence of what I had detested for awhile. Then I met a fellow in high school, a principal, the guy from second world war and he Mr. Solis, and he took me in his office and said, you just get in too much trouble. I said, what I want you to do is come in here every afternoon in study hall period, you sit in my office, I want you to diagram football. He was an old football coach. And he said, do you understand teamwork and how to get along with people and how to accomplish things? And of course I said, yes, but I didn’t. And he said, well, I’m going to teach you another way. And he made me define each football position before I ever played the game of football. I went out for one year before that. But I was terrible and I quit. But he brought me back into that. He was at the hall of fame induction. I had him stand up. I’m talking too much, let’s get back into it.

Dr. Cooper

No, no, no, no, no. This is what we were looking for. And I think people are hearing that. And they’re thinking of that person that had, that can impact on them. They’re saying, Oh yes, I had that person. I had that coach or that teacher or that principal or whatever. Um, all right. So many of our listeners are, are super high performers, but they may struggle with hitting a pinnacle and then trying to figure out what comes next. I look at your career, your life, you hit the ultimate pinnacle. I mean, I’ve got this old news clipping all, all time, super bowl team. You know, I’ve got your football cards here from,

Larry Csonka

That could be getting as wrinkled as I am.

Dr. Cooper

It actually is my friend. It’s a little bit old here, but, but you hit it in let’s see, you were mid twenties. You had the undefeated season. Back-to-back superbowl wins, MVP in 73. And you’re even the guest star on the $6 million man. My favorite show, by the way, how did you adjust mentally to being in your mid twenties and looking at your life and saying, there’s like, what else am I going to do? Like, this is I’ve, I’ve hit all of the goals. I, Oh, you crushed, you didn’t hit every goal. You crushed every goal you ever could have dreamed of. What, what then? How did you, how did you handle that mentally?

Larry Csonka

When I was 11 years old living in the country, my mother used to go to the grocery store every Friday and she would come back with groceries and she would buy me the most current magazine about outdoor life or any of those magazines that promoted the wilderness. And, uh, one day I went out to carry the groceries in and she had bought me an outdoor life and it had a picture of a Kodiak bear from Kodiak, Alaska on it. I sat there and read that from cover to cover twice the ice cream and the shopping bags melted before I brought the groceries in. So when you talk about you hit the pinnacle of your life. Well, the pinnacle, yeah. I got to ride that championship with the dolphins, but are you asking me, was that my life’s mission certainly to accomplish something in football, was part of it to take control of your body, dictate the terms, have the discipline to carry it out and then go undefeated. But certainly the pinnacle. And I don’t bring that down in any competition, but the other pinnacle I had was getting to Alaska and seeing the last real wilderness. And that’s why I’m talking to you today from Alaska with the virus, we’re staying here for the winter, but my objective was to get to Alaska and get to enjoy it and make it to the Outback.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah and was that present in your mind? So when you’re in your mid twenties and these things are just happening in your athletic world, where were you at that time already thinking, this is amazing. I’m soaking this in, but these are some of the other things I’d like to do in my life.

Larry Csonka

Sure. I was thinking about when can I get my life in order in the time that you just alluded to so that I can work Alaska into this. And I could only take a week or two because between speaking engagements and things, the promotions, we went to Vietnam with the USO. We did a lot of, I did a lot of things in the off seasons and I would always try to work at least a week or 10 days and to get it getting up to Alaska in the late seventies and early eighties. But then after I was really away from football, then the opportunity opened up to where I could start doing some outdoor TV. I always loved to hunt and fish and be in the outdoors, of course. So I was a maneuvering trying to get a situation where I could get a, a TV show about Alaska. And then I did that ended up with North to Alaska. That was the second pinnacle, right? Perhaps not as, um, not as admired by fans as much, uh, certainly has its own fans that follow it. We had a TV show for 17 years called North to Alaska and Audrey and I traveled around in and visited different lodges, hunted and fished all over the state and led to that same lifestyle, just like we had in football, a very, very thought out diet plan, a thought out, exercise plan, the disciplines of those. I don’t have to talk to you about how important that is. We had to discipline our camera guys and our whole crew and we traveled and it was our diet. It’s very easy when you’re jumping from airport to airport, even in Alaska, even in the Outback, you know, grab a big Mac and a, you know, whatever piece of Apple pie instead of sitting down and eating, you know, the right kind of food. So the right kind of food was paramount in both of those situations that I feel like I accomplished something in particularly. We forget about family and church and all those things. We, those are our accomplishments that are we’re setting to the side. Cause we’re talking about professionally what I did. Okay, but personally the goals and the family and the people that surrounded the family, church groups and so on was we wanted to spread that around. You know, we, diet has a lot to do with it. Exercise has even more to do it and discipline to carry both of those on is, you know, those are the foundations. Those are the things that I think you alluded to a great deal in what, in what you do. Right?

Dr. Cooper

Right. Very interesting. All right. So many in our audience are coaches as I mentioned to you, or they’re thinking about going that way in your career, their career, you played now, we’re not talking health and wellness coaches here, but you’re playing, you played for history’s best coach potentially in Don Shula. You’ve talked about him a little bit. He passed away this last may at age 90, what was it like playing for him? What made him so unique? You’ve touched on some of the things, his focus, the timeliness, the, the identifying things like eating right and exercise, preparing for the humidity. Were there other aspects that made him unique that you hadn’t seen in other coaches in your career at Syracuse, playing for the Giants, et cetera, et cetera,

Larry Csonka

His exactness for detail you had to, in order to play for Don Shula, it would help a great deal if you had universal talent, if you were one of the best wide receivers, if you, one of the biggest toughest running backs or fullbacks. Yeah, that was great. But what you really had to have was was intelligence and perseverance and the discipline to apply both. All right. Those three things made the difference in the way he coached. That was his definition of what he was his attention to detail his discipline, his perseverance. Those were things that just, you had to have in order to play for him. If you didn’t have those and tried to play for him, you didn’t play very long for him. And that’s a fact.

Dr. Cooper

Interesting. So that sounds like something you would see at the NFL level be pretty consistent across other, but you’re saying no, his level of those things was just, it was a different atmosphere.

Larry Csonka

You know, the best way to demonstrate what you’ve just, just alluded to is his exactness, the detail. How much time do you spend on an offside penalty? I once sat in a room and watched him run the projector back 11 times on an offside penalty. I won’t give you the player’s name. It was a thank God it wasn’t me. But my sympathy was with that player. He diagrammed every possible reason from incorrect diet to hemorrhoids, to extramarital affairs of why this fella jumped off sides and what we could do to get him to stop doing that, you know, or what he could do to get him to stop doing that. You know, there was a, it had happened a couple. You don’t make the same mistake with Don Shula in a game two or three times in your career. That doesn’t happen because your career goes somewhere else. If he stops and runs the projector back for you, 11 times on a minute thing, like just a movement, a shoulder movement. And why did you do that? You know, did you have a muscle? Did you have a spasm? You know, he shuts the projector off, picture this now think about, it Brad, you are sitting in a dark room with 50 other sweaty men. Then you’re looking at a projector screen and you make the mistake. And he shuts the projector off. And you’re all sitting there in the darkness. And he says, Larry, why did you do that? Hell I don’t know why I did that? My shoulder moved and they threw the flag, you know? Okay. But that’s not the answer. You have to wait for him. He tears it all apart, chops it all up, cooks it, eats it, digest it, craps it out and then decides on your future based on whether. That’s how, that’s how small, the 11 times for an offside penalty, he ran the projector back. You know, we counted it. We would set the record for the system. If he sat there and ran that offensive projector back and forth and studied it, boy, you make any kind of, your alignment was wrong. Nothing was too small. So attention to detail. But then the discipline, attention to detail is great. The right diet’s, great. The right exercise program. Those are all great. But if you don’t have the discipline, the self discipline to carry them out, you couldn’t play for him. Yeah. It was that easy. If you didn’t have self-discipline, he got tired of hitting you with a stick. The second, third, fourth time, he hit you with a stick. He puts you on the trading block and you had to go play for someone else somewhere else. So those kinds of things, when you bring them into your life and you get till this day, it’s like this interview. We talked about the time, I was in here 20 minutes before, because my whole life has been that way. When I sat down after football and you talked about the other thing that I wanted to do because I did football so young, I decided I’m going to go to Alaska, but I can’t just go to Alaska and develop a TV show. Here’s how I’ve got to do it. So I had to have the discipline to sit down and do outdoor TV and other capacities for other people. And then learn the trade, learn how to hire the camera guys, learn how that you know, where you get a good sound man, who can do that in the field where you don’t have city of Philadelphia backing you up, the batteries. You know, you’re out here, 30 miles or 40 or 300 miles from nowhere and your camera breaks. What the hell are you going to do? Well, you got to have the discipline to think about that beforehand. So those things carried over to what I did after I retired from football and went into the outdoor TV business.

Dr. Cooper

I love hearing that.

Larry Csonka

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Dr. Cooper

No, no I am, because I think a lot of folks may look at these incredible athletes like yourself and they go, yeah, but they’re just gifted. And they had that run. And, but, but the conversation we’re having is you say, Hey, I learned this here from this principal. And then it was developed further here and then Shula took over. And then when I was done playing it still applied and there are things that any of us can apply. And I love hearing that. Uh, you, you, you talk about coach Shula like a member of your family, frankly. It’s super powerful. Can you, can you, can you dive into that a little bit more?

Larry Csonka

Well, I think Shula and I had some things in common. We’re both born out of Hungarian immigrant parents grew up in the same area of Ohio, uh, probably 15, 20 years apart, but kind of had similar backgrounds in growing up as a hunky kid in a, in a country. And it was, um, it wasn’t a fight. Certainly it was a great place to grow up. It was a great place to grow up. We had things in common, but I think his, his desire to win, you know, he was a little confused. I heard him talk about his childhood. He was a little confused, you know, you’d assume that that’s, this guy was programmed towards football right away. And just, you know, an athletic thing was just what, he almost became a priest. As a young Catholic boy, like I was in Ohio that cross across my mind for about 15 seconds. But you know, I’m sure with him, he was, he, he’s a man of faith, extreme faith, deep faith, and a man of purpose, and principle. And you know, I can give you several examples of that. He would not cheat under any circumstance. Didn’t matter whether whatever the rules, the NFL set up for cheating to where Shula’s were above that he didn’t, you know, but by the time you got to where the NFL, you had already crossed Shula’s threshold long time ago and his religious background had a lot to do with that. And he was a man of integrity. He did not change the air in the footballs. He did not cheat, and a couple of situations. It was obvious to me once I’ll tell you a short story, I’ll try and make it as short as I can. We went out to play Oakland one year. And we were still undefeated from the year before. This was early 73. When I had to play the Oakland Raiders, we had not lost a game in a full season and two games in this next season. Go into practice the day before the game at the Oakland stadium, wherever it was that they were playing at the time going into the locker room, there was someone there working construction in there in the locker, in the stadium. So we had to use the same locker room that the Raiders had used the day before or earlier that day. So I go into the locker room. And one of the fellows that played on that team, the Raiders team was named, uh, well, I won’t tell you. He was a fellow that played with me at Syracuse defensive tackle. So I went and found his locker and I was going to leave him a note that I, you know, crapped in his helmet or something to be funny because we were just doing the day before we work out. I tried because he’s a defensive player. We’re going to run up against each other. So I sit down in front of his locker and I’m looking around and kind of looking at his stuff, you know, I’m going to use his locker room, his locker in the locker room. I noticed his game plan. He forgot his game plan. This is what, this is the Bible that you are going to use. Third and one, this is the defense they’re going to run. You know, if we have a first and five or a second and five situation he’s got on his diagram, what we’re going to do? My gosh, that’s like a Bible. That’s like the game plan for the game that we’re not face the next day. I shut it up immediately. And I went and handed it to our offensive line coach. And he said, what is it? I said, don’t ask me anything about that. That’s yours. And he, he took it. Of course immediately recognize what it was. He didn’t say anything. He just walked off. We play the game, we lose a game. It’s close, loose by just the tiniest bit, right at the end of the game. So I see Monte Clark later. I said, Monte, what’d you do with that game plan? You know, why did you have it whatever and de said, I took it to coach Shula coach Shula said, throw it away. He said, throw it away. He said, if we can’t beat them straight up, then we shouldn’t beat them. And we didn’t. And that ended the winning streak. So that’s a story you don’t hear about. And I tell it at my own suffering my own damage in it, because I figured if you leave your game report behind and you’re dumb enough to do that, then maybe we ought to take a look.

Dr. Cooper

Well, and in that season, didn’t you only lose two games?

Larry Csonka

We only lost two games. So that was one of the two there’s there’s, you know, cheating is a thing that goes in, in different increments. If unlike that game report thing, the right thing to do was fold that up and throw it away and not look at it. And that’s what they did. I didn’t try to memorize it or do anything. What am I going to do as a fullback? I don’t call anything anyway, but I handed it over to the powers, but Shula wouldn’t do that. So when you talk about discipline, attention to detail, you also talk about moral fiber. Yeah. He had not only discipline in drive, he had moral fiber back it up. So he was a great man.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah. I wish I could have talked to him before. Um, all right. Belief, belief is a big part of success with health, wellness, and performance. People are sitting out there thinking about, can I do this with my eating or exercise or whatever? It might be. A lot of people don’t re remember, or they don’t realize that during the undefeated season, this is a fascinating story. Folks, if you don’t know this, your starting quarterback, Bob, he was replaced by 38 year old, Earl Murrell, 38 year old, Earl. This is a long time ago. This isn’t when there were many 38 year olds playing quarterback. He was severely injured, missed almost all the games I’ve got down that Earl played 11 of the 17 games that year. Talk to us about Earl’s belief in himself and the role that played with the team, believing in him and believing what you were still able to do.

Larry Csonka

Earl, as you mentioned, was 38 years old. And the first thing we did was we chipped in and bought him a rocking chair cause he was 38 going on 39 years old, 39 is a great number. And we put it in front of his, well actually the trainer, the equipment manager had it and put it in front of his room, in front of his locker. And he was three lockers down from me. And, uh, I got a kick out of it because most people would have been offended by that or something. Earl loved, you know, he was 39 and he loved it. He got the rocking chair, he got pads for it. You know, we’d come in, he’ll be sitting in his rocking chair, rocking in it instead of being offended by it. He just, he ate it up. And when he came into the huddle in the very play, after Bob was injured in the, I believe the San Diego game early in the season, he came into the huddle and leaned into the huddle and said, looked around and said, what do you think? And that’s see, this is before the radio in the helmet and the offensive coordinator up in the, in the box plotting and all the chess game going on. It’s like today, it was more like, what can you remember that works in this scenario? So we’re very dependent, on his mentality to memorize things, but Earl turned it around and looked at all of us. And he looked at me and I said, who’s gonna give a damn what I think. But what he was saying was do you have any, give me something, give me something and we’ll work with it. You know, Earl had that, but he also had the game plan memorized. And you know, he learned that all the places he, he played at, you know, Detroit, Baltimore, all the places he played, he played for particularly for Shula in Baltimore. He’s very intense. And we knew that he had it in his head and what to do in the circumstance, but he wanted to know each of us personally, you know, do you see a weak spot that perhaps the sidelines or myself don’t, aren’t aware of? And he would ask that, not that Bob didn’t Bob was a variant playing a chess game, right? Earl not so much. Earl said, you know, what are you going to hit him in the eye? Or we’re going to swing it over to here to the tight end, Bob, wasn’t playing the chess match that goes on with the safety and the weak safety and the rotation of the strong back strong linebacker. He wasn’t into that. He was more into look what works, let’s do that. Right. And, uh, that worked. But the great thing about that chemistry that you mentioned between Bob and Earl was that when Bob got healthy and came back, we were in one of the playoffs, had the first playoff games and we were pretty much not on the ropes, but we were bouncing off of them. It was giving us all we could handle. Bob came in and changed and they shifted gears so smoothly. The great, see that’s that’s when you know, you have intelligence, besides just, you can have all the brute force in the world and not strength you know you’ve got this. Then this works and that that works. But when you have intelligence and everyone knows what they’re doing, and you have the discipline to, to all go in the same direction, each time each play, it might not be where you were personally, you know, I might not get to, carry the ball. I might have to block and we’re on the goal line. You know, all those stats, personal stats add up and they’re celebrated back then, but it didn’t matter. The only stat that we were after that entire time, whether Bob was in the game or Earl was in the game, was the win column. Whatever we had to do to win within the rules is what we wanted to do. And we’re all, you never heard a guy say, we got to throw the ball to me once, you know, three quarters. It never, that never happened. You know, no one come over and crying and about not getting this or not getting that to do what you had to do to win. And with an 800 pound gorilla named Shula on your back, you didn’t really care about whether you carried it across the goal line or Tim cook did. It was gold either way.

Dr. Cooper

All right. So let’s chat about stats for a second and I may have gotten this wrong, but I think I read that you led the league at somewhere around 5.4 yards per carry. Was it 71? Did I read that incorrectly or is that right?

Larry Csonka

I don’t have a clue.

Dr. Cooper

I, I, I mean, cause that would be stunning. I, I bet that would be great trivia. What fullback fullback led the league in yards per carry. It’s just stunning.

Larry Csonka

John Riggins comes to mind. John Riggins would be my opinion. Mentioning what we’re talking about today is the discipline and the ability to watch you, you know, the discipline to do it, the ability to watch your diet exercise. Are you going to do those things? There’s two guys right there. Yeah. John Riggins. Who’s my age or just about my age. I think he might be a year or two younger. And uh, who’s the other one that I’m frankly, Franco Harris again, I think he’s a year or two younger. I think John and Franco are just about the same age. I’m not sure, but both of those men I’ve been around in the last few years and both of them exercise when I was kidding around and did the pushup thing online and stuff right away, you know, Franco answered it. So did John, John was out there doing that and I got a kick out of it because both of them, I have the discipline of Franco for years, even back when we were playing he and Rocky Bleier, I would be around them. And Franco was very much into his diet, watching what he ate. He always eats blueberries every day. You know, as I noticed it being around him, you know, at pro bowls, different places where I was, was in his presence. He, he was very disciplined on his diet. And uh, when you assume, when he’s that disciplined on his diet to where he eats so many blueberries every day, that he’s also disciplined on his exercise routine and his general health care, knowing what supplements make the difference and checking with people to make sure you get a balance for your liver and different things that, and those two guys, there’s, there’s two that jumped right out of the past, you know, that, that are probably qualified to, to do an interview more than I, about the discipline of carrying that out. Uh, I’m sure both of them had great coaches in their careers, but neither one of them had Shula. With Shula, it was easy to do those things because you had that size 12 E that gets stuck right up your butt if you don’t.

Dr. Cooper

Or you were out on playing for somebody else after that. Um, all right. So you are still a very engaged football fan, folks, follow your tweets every week during the dolphin games, knowing what you know now, what, and you’ve touched on some of this, but would you have done things any differently in terms of your physical or mental preparation during your career? You talk about, it sounds like you guys were ahead of the game anyway, because of what Shula demanded, but now knowing what, you know, 30 years later, 40 years later, is there something where you’re like, ah, I wish I would have been able to tap into that opportunity or utilize that mental technique or eat that food or take in more protein or any of those kinds of things?

Larry Csonka

If I had the opportunity to do it all over, I wouldn’t change anything. If I could go back and start right after I retired or was asked to leave the NFL, some of us are afforded opportunities to retire. Others are asked to leave. I was sort of in the middle of that. Anyway, I think if I had that to do over from the time I left the NFL over again, I would, uh, I would be a little more mindful of my diet. I jumped from 245 pounds. What I weigh now, I, when I retired from or left the NFL, I was like 243 or 45. The day I left. And I, I, then I ballooned up to about 293. All right. So 40 pounds, 40, 50 pound range. And that was because I was involved in the hierarchy of football in the old world league or a USFL. I mean the United States football league with Jacksonville. And I got all wound up in that, stopped my exercise routine. I stopped my discipline of eating, you know, eating the right things. Those things got pushed to the side from the time I was 40 until the time I was probably 55. In that 15 year period, I did a lot of damage. I had to have a couple of heart ablations because of situations that have cropped up mostly from not maintaining. And that, um, when I had that, uh, ablasion you know, when they went in and cleared that, and uh, at the Cleveland clinic guy said, he was just very frank, he said, you need to exercise and you need to, uh, reduce your weight. Shula’s voice. You know, my mouth was moving, but I was hearing, you know, what I was hearing. And I just decided right then at I’m probably 60 years old, which was what 14, 15 years ago. Right around probably between 58 and 60 right in there. I just, one day the bell rang. And I said, I’m going to, in order to not be short in my life or be, you know, an invalid in some respect, I’m going to have to change what I’m doing here. So I did, I just started saying, Hey, no matter what, I’m going to get up and do so many exercises until this morning, I got up between five 30 and six. Like I always do, went out and did my stretches. I did 12 minutes of stretches on the floor with the legs over, get the lower back and everything loosened up, my bad hip. Then I laid there for a while and panted and I rolled over and did 35 pushups. The real ones like, not cheaters like I do, but the real ones I could do 35. I’m trying to get up to 39, but it’s just killing me. And then I took the blood pressure. Well, I took the blood pressure for, I started in, uh, in the heart rate things. And I keep a check on that now. And the weight slowly when I started all that back when I was in my late fifties, early sixties, the weight came off. I started to feel better and I met Audrey. Uh, she’s very much into healthy eating. And we started cutting out the wheat, the gluten and all the things I let her go on about that. But she, she got me on a diet where I eat a considerable amount of red meat, but most of it’s moose, caribou, elk like that. And, um, well it’s just made a world of difference. I’m back down to my playing or not my playing weight playing weight was 237, but I’d have to run in a wetsuit everyday to get to that weight.

Dr. Cooper

To get to stay at 237. I was going to say, let’s see on the, on the card here. Yeah, it says 235, my friends. So that’s, that’s what we got going there. You remember that?

Larry Csonka

Doc decided that I needed to weigh 235. And I actually argued with him because I wanted 240 argued and argued with him for a week. He brought in a specialist who weighed us under water displaced. I had the best, uh, well, no, I shouldn’t say that I had the second best on the team. The only guy that beat me, it was like Dick Anderson, defensive back for a percentage of fat in the body. Mine was, uh, you know, just, just a tiny bit over top of his and he’s 208 pounds. So Shula said, well, you’re right. So he gave two pounds to me. I’ll never forget. I went in his office. I was all smiles. And he said, well, you were right. I’m swelling right up on it. You know? And then you go, so what I’m going to do is it’s 235. I’m gonna make it 237. And that man smiled like he wanted me to thank him, Shula had a great rule and I’ll shut up after I tell you this, you get in front of the team anytime he was out in public or in front of the team, particularly in front of the team, what he said, when, you know, there was no rebuttal, smartest thing you could do is say, coach, I’d like to come see you after the meeting. And that everybody understood what that meant. Okay. I’ve got something more to say, but I’m going to wait to say, you come in and you come in his office and you could say anything you wanted. So but as soon as he said that, I went back in the office. I wanted to jump over there several times. He wanted to jump over. We weren’t that far difference in age. And he was still a young man. He said, no, I know you. If I give you two pounds, he said, then you’ll only be five pounds off. By giving you five pounds, you’ll be eight pounds off. And I, you know, I couldn’t argue with him. He was right.

Dr. Cooper

Well, it’s fascinating to me to hear you talk about, so you, you, you retired around 40, you’re about 245, and then you ballooned up to 293. And you talk about most people. When they think about football players, they think about the health issues or the things that happened in those five, 10, 15 years. They had a chance to play professional and some of the college years. And you’re saying, you know what, Brad? Yeah, of course I had some orthopedic things going on with that, but really my health problems were my own doing. It was the choices I made in that 15 years that followed my retirement. Not the 15 years I was playing ball.

Larry Csonka

As we get older, the things we did orthopedically to our body, they get the larger merit merit, a measure of our existence as we get older and things tend to shrink up and dry up, all right, for lack of a better description. But right after I retired, I was still pretty much in the prime of life. I was only 35, 36 years or 33, 34 years old. So I didn’t pay particular attention to my diet. I lost that discipline, right. That was being forced on me. So because my time was so taken up with running a football team and doing the things I was doing and the old USFL, I didn’t adhere to the discipline that I had learned in the NFL. I, once I got out of that and started and had the problems and the, the, uh, doctors at Cleveland clinic sat down with me and said, these are the things you need to do. They’re talking and I’m looking at him and I’m seeing Shula’s face where their face is at because it dawns on me in order to play, that’s what I had to do. So the whole thing comes down to one word discipline. If you have the discipline to do these things, you will be healthy and you will reap the benefits. If you don’t, you’ll reap the other benefits, which are the shortcomings in short shortened lifestyle, certainly shorten, uh, quality of life, which is even perhaps more important to a lot of us than how long you live is what’s the quality of your life. The quality of my life turned around. As soon as I lost that weight, had that heart ablation, and started to change my lifestyle. I started to enjoy life a lot more. I went back to Alaska and did a lot of things over, had a good time.

Dr. Cooper

Let’s, let’s, let’s talk $6 million man for a minute here, now that was my favorite show growing up. I actually went back and watched that episode where you were the guest star on the $6 million man with with Steve Austin. And what was that like? I mean, that was the show at the time, all of a sudden you’re on the show, you guys are playing around, messing around, but was that just one of those things like, Oh yeah, I’ll just go do this. And it takes a couple of days out of my schedule. Or did you really enjoy that? Was that a fun, was that a memory where you look back and go, you know what? That was pretty fun.

Larry Csonka

I didn’t think I would enjoy it until I got there and did it. And, uh, you know, the star of that was a great fella and we had done some hunting together and done some other things. I met him through another fellow, fellow named Burt Reynolds. It was a big football follower kind of guy, and got to know them both. And, uh, it was fun to go and do it just as a cameo appearance. It was, I’m not much of an actor or TV actor. I don’t, you know, that’s a whole set of, that’s a whole other discipline, like multiple personalities coming out, something for a football player to do that as kind of a Joan Damon’s probably the closest thing, but I wasn’t, I, that world wasn’t for me, but it was fun to go over there and visit and do that, do that show and be part of that one time.

Dr. Cooper

And, um, uh, who’s the gentleman who was in Rocky in first two Rockies, uh, that fought against him. He was in it as well. There were a lot of stars that didn’t realize made an appearance there. Have you stayed in touch with Lee Majors? Or is that something that, Hey, yeah, we did that at the time and that was it.

Larry Csonka

We hung out together there for a while and, and I saw him off and on. He was, he was a good friend. He and his family are great people. We visited them a couple of times out on the coast when we were out there and I was doing the show in Alaska. We stopped, saw them some. Diana Shore, kind of put us all together. I did a show for Diana Shore, uh, probably in the early seventies or middle seventies where she had all the little league coaches on. I was not a fan of little league as I saw it. I didn’t think the kids were, were safe because the people coaching it have the kind of equipment, you know, there’s two 80 pounders running up against each other. It’s cute, but it’s also lethal if you happen to be one of the 80 pounders, particularly if you’re one of the 80 pounders that happens to weigh 91 pounds and you’re running against each other, their equipment, the thing I didn’t like about the little league football at that time. And I, I qualify it at that time was that it was kind of slipshod on how your equipment fit. I saw fellows with loose helmet. I knew what would happen with that. And the probability of a head injury was very high. I saw shoulder pads that were loose, you know, slid over to one side. You know, you can get hurt bad, even if you, if you only weigh 80 or a hundred pounds and you’re running into another a hundred pounds of wide open, which kids will do more readily than men, uh, they’ll run into each other the first time you can really get hurt. And my whole drive with that, when I met Diana and was on her show, was she had a lot of Peewee football coaches that were ready to, you know, because I was speaking out against the little league, organized little league football, but I wasn’t, I was just, I think that’s good that they get together and play that. I think there was more caution needed to be taken. Just like the discipline of staying healthy, the things you do with exercise and health and diets on the field. You have to have the discipline to make sure your equipment is right and fit you in the right, correct way. And it does the most for you.

Dr. Cooper

Good, good. Um, all right. We’ve talked about some of the things you’ve experienced the hall of fame induction in 87, obviously the undefeated season, the Superbowl MVP, is there a special memory from your career that might surprise people, people that think back, they knew you, they followed you and they hear this and they go, what? I’d never heard that before. Is there a special one that kind of follows that line?

Larry Csonka

I think the fondest memory I have of course, is that right after winning super bowl seven or seeing Shula heisted up on the other fellow’s shoulders and holding that Lombardi trophy, uh, you know, that we, I think that was done as much for him as it was for ourselves or as much for ourselves as it was for him. He was a driving force, but I knew what it meant to him having lost, you know, in the early Superbowl there, and then having lost super bowl six with us, what it meant was he had established the fact that it could be done. Not only it could be done, but you could achieve perfection on the way now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Don Shula, when he stood in front of us after super bowl six and said, we need to go one game at a time with the idea that we’re going to win every game. I don’t know that he believed what he was saying there. In other words, he wanted our attitude to be that we need to win each one’s going to be the Superbowl. Then we can’t go wrong. That’s what he wanted. That desire that, you know, Jim Kick looked at me and said, boy, this year is going to be a bitch, but that’s, that’s the kind of dedication that that’s the kind of concentration that it takes to get to that.

Dr. Cooper

Well, and as you’re saying that I’m thinking the folks that are really focused on their health and wellness, or maybe they’re even coaches helping other people do that. It’s the same thing. You, you go into it thinking let’s make every decision count. Let’s make everyday count, but we’re not expecting perfection. You’re going to have days when you just want that ice cream or whatever it is. And that’s okay. But we strive for what, what was, was it Lombardi that said, we you know, we strive for perfection and we reach excellence or something like that. I mean, that sounds like that was his message is let’s strive for this. And then even if we come back a step, we’re still, we’re going to win the super bowl. And that’s what really matters.

Larry Csonka

If you would have stopped Don Shula mid sentence there, which wouldn’t have been a good idea, but he would have said, no, I don’t mean that we should go undefeated that wasn’t what he was. He wanted that dedication to it. Like we were going to do that. He didn’t know that he was making a prediction there. He thought he was drawing an analogy of what was to be versus what is right. It turns out it was a prediction. And Jim’s response was a prediction that year. You know, particularly when we lost Bob Greazy in fourth or fifth game, cannot imagine, you know, there was a very sad huddle and Earl Morell ran in there and looked at us and said, what do you think? It was a very sad huddle because we figured our hopes were dashed, right? But lo and behold, we had another Superman. He just tied the cloak on and said, follow me, boys. And down the hill, we went, you know, it was great, great atmosphere of personalities, too, of all the different people, I think the most common, but someone asked me the other day, if you had to name one common factor, that that was true on all 40 players or 44 players and coaches and supporting staff, you know, office staff, all the whole thing you had to name one feature, what would it be? What asset would be the thing. And I said, intelligence, to be smart enough, to care enough, to put yourself second to the, to the team winning where you care more about the win column than you do about your personal statistics, more about your defensive unit than winning as much as you do your offensive unit, you know, the special teams, it all came together that way. And it was due to that one guy, you’ve got to have a pivotal guy driving that. And that’s, that was Shula. That was the guy.

Dr. Cooper

Well, and I’m thinking, and again, my stats may be a little off here, but I think you and Mercury Morris were the first pair in history to both go over a thousand yards in the same season. Yeah. I mean, that, that in itself is incredible. That, that two to think about the way you work together like that.

Larry Csonka

Well, Mercury and I were the two most used running backs, but Jim Kick was the third in that offensive backfield. And he was used off and on in the passing situation in short passing on a halfback short option pass. Cause he was so quick and tight and we’ll get free and get the passes. If you take Jim kicks rushing yardage and his passing yardage, all three of us went over a thousand yards. That’s the kind of balance you had there. See that discipline and keep coming back to that, right? It didn’t matter whether it was Jim or Merck got the call, the line men, they were blind to that. What they cared about was making the play work and they were going to make sure that whatever their contribution was wasn’t made too full, they were going to make sure it was perfect. And Jim Kick and Mercury Morris, he could have got back then see, first and second team was very divisive thing. I mean, it was very, very disciplined. You know, this is first team, this is second team. It was very regimented that way. But when Don Shula decided to put mercury in and blend him in and move, that was a great revelation to the game because the substitutional rules had changed. And you could do that. We prior to that time, back in the fifties and the forties back in the military, you couldn’t, you couldn’t exchange players like that. We’ll take advantage of that new rule because we went all through the rule book. Don knew it forward and backwards. He quoted to the referee, you know, he knew it and he knew there was an edge there. See intelligence, and then having players intelligent enough and strong enough men did not get their egos in the way and say, okay, Larry, Jim, Mercury, you’re all gonna be in different. You’re sometimes you’re gonna be in the beginning. And, uh, first quarter, sometimes you’re gonna be in the fourth quarter, we’re going to substitute you different ways. Well, whose first team. Well, it doesn’t matter anymore who’s first team. Now that could have been divisive. A lot of people would have had there. He goes getting away and it’d your biases. But when Shula’s harping at you so hard in that heat and trying to get through and discipline, the last thing you were worried about was whether you got to carry the ball. You just want to get the thing across the line. So he’d shut up. So when mercury would come in, the only time I ever heard Jim Kick bitch or moan about mercury Morris coming in is when we were down in close to the end zone. And it wasn’t because of the end zone. It was because of the fact how far he had to run to get off the field and then come back the next play. If we did it between the hash marks 50 yard line, he could just walk out. He didn’t mind if he had to go down and clear down by the end zone.

Dr. Cooper

That is so good. Oh, Larry, thank you so much for doing this. I want to make sure people can keep track of you. I mentioned Twitter. They look you up and you’re @LarryCsonka uh, your website is that LarryCsonka.com, it that the best way to keep track of what you’re doing, or if they want to get you out there as a speaking engagement or something, is that best way to find you?

Larry Csonka

Brad, I gotta tell you, so yeah, LarryCsonka.com go on there. And then, um, game days, I’ve we formed a little army that I never realized, I never appreciated my cell phone. You know, I never got into all that Audrey till this day still takes it out of my hand, but she’s with me on game day. And we literally developed a following an army, not just of dolphin fans, but you know, recently I was a Washington fan because they had to take Pittsburgh on and sometimes I’m a Pittsburgh fan because of whatever it is depending on how that effects the dolphins. And I’ve always been a Giants fan. And then pulling for Washington, Giants fans are getting they’re like, what are you doing? I started saying on Twitter, on day on game day, which is Sunday, Monday and Thursday, sometimes a Wednesday, but we get on there. And I get, I started hearing from guys that I played in high school with guys that played junior high with guys that I played in college with guys that played in the pros with, and now I’m starting to hear from some of the other teams, the guys that played on other teams opposite me during the course of my career in, in those same revelations. And it’s fun because we start saying really comedic things to each other, right? Whether remembering, you know, you see what you see on the TV and then remembering it a high school play back from 1965. What happened? You know? And, uh, well, it just creates a lot of conversations, brings back a lot of memories on things that I thought were gone is what I’m trying to say to you. Those relationships that I had in junior high and high school and college, and in the early pros that I thought I’ll never see those people again, never hear from them. Twitter has changed all that. And now I get on a game day and I start talking to people and I find out that somebody I knew, you know, and I’m like, damn where have you been? And they start telling me it’s a, it’s a whole nother social thing that we’ve got. That it’s really been a blessing for me. I enjoy it. A great deal. So if you’re not doing anything, jump on there on game day.

Dr. Cooper

Exactly. Watch when the dolphins are playing and he’ll be right there. I love it. Larry, this is so much fun. You were a guy that I looked up to you, you were the guy that whenever we played out in the yard and we’d pick a guy, okay, you be Billy Whiteshoes Johnson, and I’m going to be Larry Csonka. I mean, I always wanted to be Larry Csonka. So I didn’t quite grow into your size. I’m about a 150. So not quite that 245 or 237 that Shula gave you. But, uh, man, it’s been fun following you. It’s been fun catching up, seeing what you’re up to. Thank you so much for spending the time with us. This was great.

Larry Csonka

I enjoyed it. Brad.

Dr. Cooper

Take care.

Larry Csonka

Let’s do it again sometime.

Dr. Cooper

That sounds great. How fun was that? I hope you enjoyed the walk down memory lane and the application it has for each one of us as much as I did. Thank you for tuning into the number one podcast for health and wellness coaching. Next week’s guest, we’re going to stay with the sports theme. Here is three time Ironman world champion Craig Alexander. When we released the video version of this interview over at youtube.com/coaching channel in advance, about six weeks ago, it immediately became one of our most popular videos of all time. When you hear the stories and tips, this humble champion shares you’ll know exactly why. As always, if you have any questions about pursuing a career as a health and wellness coach, we’re happy to connect. Just drop us a note [email protected]oachingInstitute.com or you can access a library of resources at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. Now it’s time to be a catalyst on this journey of life. The chance to make a positive difference in the world, not by burning ourselves out, but instead by simultaneously improving our own lives along the way. This is Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. Make it a great rest of your week. And I’ll speak with you soon on the next episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching podcast, or maybe over on the YouTube coach channel.