A defensive back with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins, he then went onto spend 33 seasons as a head coach in the league.
Shula spent seven winning seasons with the Colts, before moving onto the Miami Dolphins in 1970 and writing his name into the history books in a reign that lasted until 1995.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, who has overseen an NFL record 347 wins, led the Dolphins to 12 division titles, five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl triumphs.
In 1972, Shula guided the Dolphins to Super Bowl glory with a perfect season. They remain the only NFL team to achieve that feat.
The franchise said in a statement on Monday: "The Miami Dolphins are saddened to announce that Head Coach Don Shula passed away peacefully at his home this morning.
"Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years.
"He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene.
"Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Mary Anne along with his children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike."