Shula was born on January 4, 1930 in Grand River, Ohio, a small town along the Lake Erie shore in the northeastern part of the state, the son of Dan and Mary (Miller) Shula, both of Hungarian origin, having immigrated when they were children. Shula's father Dan worked for $9 a week at a rose nursery and saved up to buy the small house where Shula spent his early childhood. The house was next door to a grocery store in Grand River owned by Mary's parents. Shula began playing football while still quite young and at the tender age of eleven was forbidden by his parents to play the game anymore after sustaining a bad facial cut during a neighborhood scrimmage. As Shula's family expanded - he had six siblings, including a set of triplets born in 1936 - his father got a job in the local fishing industry for $15 a week, and later worked at a rayon plant in nearby Painesville, Ohio. His mother was a devout Catholic, and his father converted to the religion when they married.