Former Cowboys assistant Joe Avezzano dies of heart attack

04/05/2012 1:01 PM

04/05/2012 5:19 PM

Former Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano, popularly and affectionately known as "Coach Joe", is dead.

Avezzano, 68, died of a heart attack while running on a treadmill in Milan, Italy, where he was coaching in the Italian Football League.

It's a huge loss to the Cowboys and to football as Avezzano was one of the game's most passionate coaches and unique characters.

“Joe Avezzano was a very special part of our Dallas Cowboys family and our organization’s history. He was also a wonderful father, husband and friend. No one enjoyed life more than Joe, and no one that I know had a greater appreciation for the people that he loved and the lives that he touched,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We grieve with Diann and Tony and the thousands of fans who loved Coach Joe. He was an original. There was no one else like him.”

Avezzano was recognized as one of the NFL’s premier special team coaches. He coached with the Cowboys from 1990-2002, including the team’s run of three Super Bowl titles in four years in the early 1990s.

He was let go by the Cowboys when Bill Parcells took over in 2003. He was the special teams coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2003-2005.

He also coached the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League.

In the past few years, Avezzano tried to stay as close to the game as he could as a radio and television commentator as well as doing football clinics, including working on Michael Irvin's Reality Show 4th and Long before heading to Italy in February for a sixth-month stay as coach of the Milan Seaman.

He planned to return to Dallas in time for the Cowboys training camp in late July.

Avezzano was born in Yonkers, N.Y., but grew up in Miami where he played football at Jackson High School. After starring at guard at Florida State, he was drafted by the Boston Patriots.

He began his coaching career at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, in 1967.

He moved to the college ranks a year later at Florida State. His other coaching stops include Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Oregon State (head coach) and Texas A&M before joining the Cowboys in 1990.

While at Texas A&M, the Aggies won three Southwest Conference titles and two Cotton Bowls.

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