Strock-Shula Connection

When Mike Shula was a high school student he was lucky enough to get a couple of parttime jobs with the Miami Dolphins. One of them was a paying job, that of manager in training camp. The other was charting plays for the coaches on Sunday afternoons.

Shula, who would go on to be an Alabama quarterback and who is now head coach of the Crimson Tide, didn't just luck into those jobs. His father, Don, was head coach at Miami. And a back-up quarterback for the Dolphins was Don Strock. Strock, too, has gone on to be a college head coach. He's the head man at Florida International, which plays Alabama this week.

FIU will be Bama's homecoming opponent at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama is coming off a 16-13 loss at Tennessee and is now 5-3 overall (including 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games). Florida International is 0-7. The Golden Panthers are coming off an open date. Prior to the bye week, FIU had an unfortunate game against Miami in which a brawl resulted in several players being suspended. FIU will be undermanned for this week's game.

Mike Shula is fond of the 55-year old Strock.

"He was one of many players who took me under his wing," Shula said. "I was a summer equipment manager. I'd have to do his laundry every day.

"As I got older and was playing the quarterback position, he was very helpful–a big brother type–sharing insight, helping me with throwing technique, what to look for as a quarterback.

"And when I was charting plays and he was the back-up quarterback, I'd take down a lot of his information as well as that I got from the coaches. I got a feel of how you're supposed to think as a quarterback.

"He was always very well liked and respected when he was quarterback with Dolphins."

Shula said that Alabama has a couple of obstacles in preparing for this week's game against Strock's FIU squad.

"Number one, we've got to get this one (the loss to Tennessee) out of our system. The number one motivation for us this week is to not feel like we're feeling now."

Shula said that Bama also should be aware that just because a game looks like an easy win on paper, that doesn't mean it will be. The Tide has been in tough battles with Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Duke, and Ole Miss. "We're proved that you've got to be at your best or you run the risk of losing a ball game."

Unquestionably, the loss of a number of players, suspended after the brawl with Miami, is a big problem for FIU. But it's also a problem for Alabama, Shula said.

Shula said, "I think they were down only 7-0 to Miami in the third quarter" before the brawl and eventual big loss to the Hurricanes.

But that won't be the same team Alabama faces. "We'll look at the tape of the past few games," Shula said. "In some respects, it's like watching a tape of last year's team for a first game (of the season). We won't know about their personnel and we'll have to wonder about their tendencies."

Should Alabama expect big changes, Shula was asked in his weekly teleconference with sportswriters on Sunday.

"We have to be ready for that," Shula said. This could be a team taking more chances xbecause of the circumstances. They are coming into a place where no one expects them to win. We have to be prepared and disciplined and we have to execute.

"These games are always really, really scary."

Shula feels for Strock's difficulty. "It's gtough anytime you know someone who is going through hard times," the Tide coach said. "You feel for guys like that. But I've learned a lot about him. He's got a lot to him. He's extremely bright. He has a great way about him. I imagine that shows up in his players."

And the bottom line for Shula and Alabama: "Our job is to go out and beat them," Shula said.

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