Former Revere High quarterback Jim Del Gaizo and his wife, Sandra, are living in south Florida not far from where Jim and his Miami Dolphins teammates made history in the 1972 season, becoming the National Football League’s first (and still only) undefeated team.
DelGaizo, who will be 73 on May 31, is a member of the RHS Class of 1965. He was the starting quarterback for Coach Silvio Cella’s 1963 and 1964 teams.
Those RHS teams lost only one game in two years with Del Gaizo, a left-hander calling the signals and his twin brother, John, catching passes as a wide receiver.
In Jim Del Gaizo’s last game in 1964, the Revere High Patriots scored on their last possession to beat an equally gifted Winthrop High team, 8-0. Running back Billy Cintolo scored the only touchdown. DelGaizo hit his twin brother, John, on a slant pass for the two-point conversion.
“The newspapers called it the ‘game of the century’ on the North Shore,” recalled Del Gaizo. “We played it on a Saturday because it rained lightly on Thanksgiving and, of course, we weren’t going to play in the rain if we could avoid it. The whole North Shore showed up for the game because other teams had played on Thursday. It was the biggest crowd I ever saw, that’s for sure – it was a mob scene. It was quite an event. I remember it vividly.”
The DelGaizo brothers went on to play football at Syracuse University and University of Tampa. At one point at Syracuse, Jim handed the ball off to All-Americans Larry Csonka and Floyd Little.
Jim is the son of Frank Del Gaizo and Adeline “Dolly” Del Gaizo. Frank owned and operated the well-known Gloria Food Store in Revere. Mr. Del Gaizo enjoyed immensely watching his sons play high school and college football.
Jim Del Gaizo was signed as an undrafted free agent by Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins. He played two seasons for the Dolphins, including the historic 1972 seasons when the team who won every game, capped by a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VIII.
Don Shula died on May 4, just a few months after he had been feted at his 90th birthday. Jim and Sandra Del Gaizo attended the party. Jim joined Coach Shula and his Miami teammates in conversation for some wonderful memories.
“I was undrafted coming out of college, I guess because I was a left-handed quarterback,” said Del Gaizo. “I wouldn’t have had a pro career except that Don Shula was smart enough to realize that it didn’t matter if I was left-handed or not – could I play football? And he understood that and gave me a career.”
Del Gaizo said that Shula was “a genius – the Belichick of his era.”
“Coach Shula was on the cutting edge, doing all the stuff that nobody else was doing,” said Del Gaizo, who went to two Super Bowls with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins were leading the Redskins, 14-0, late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl VII when a field goal attempt by Garo Yepremian went awry and the Redskins’ Mike Bass returned the football for a touchdown.
“Garo almost didn’t come off the field after that play, but everything worked out,” remembered DelGaizo.
Jim said he had great coaches throughout his career. He is grateful to all who helped him become an NFL quarterback and a member of the league’s greatest team ever.
“It took a coach to get me where I wanted to go – I had Silvio Cella in high school and he was very innovative and I had great time with him, I had Fran Curci in college (Tampa), and I had Don Shula,” said Del Gaizo. “My success all came from coaching.”
Del Gaizo was with Miami in 1971 when the Dolphins won the longest game ever played, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24 in the sixth quarter in the AFC playoffs. The next year, Jim Del Gaizo earned a Super Bowl ring on a 17-0 Dolphins team.
Looking back on his years with Don Shula, Jim said he was a coach years ahead of his time. “He worked hard and he had a great staff. We would call two plays in the huddle and use one of them at the line of scrimmage, mostly running plays. We were a running team and had a tremendous offensive line. We would change things up because of defenses that were over-shifting. We called it the ‘check-with-me’ offense. Nobody did things like that in those days. Our opponents never knew what we were doing. And Shula innovated the ’53 Defense’ which changed the face of NFL defenses forever with the mobile linebackers. It all started then.”
Del Gaizo still on occasion wears his Super Bowl ring, but the former Revere football legend does not have a 1972 Miami Dolphins’ autographed football, “even though I probably signed 10,000 of them.”
But what Jim Del Gaizo does have is fond memories of playing for Don Shula, one of the true legendary coaches in NFL history, during pro football’s only perfect season.