Tony Sparano, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach and former popular Dallas Cowboys assistant coach, has died at the age of 56.
The Vikings announced Sparano’s unexpected passing in a press release Sunday afternoon.
“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony,” Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony’s presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony’s family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts.”
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Sparano went to a hospital with chest pains on Thursday. The hospital released him on Friday after tests were performed.
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On Sunday morning, Sparano’s wife, Jeannette, found him unconscious in the kitchen as they were preparing to leave for church. She performed CPR, but he could not be revived.
Sparano was an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-2007.
He started out in Dallas as the tight ends coach under Bill Parcells before developing into one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. He was the offensive line coach when the Cowboys went 13-3 in 2007, before being hired away by Parcells to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
He was the Dolphins’ head coach from 2008-11 and went 29-32. He went 11-5 and won the AFC East in his first season with Miami.
Sparano was one of six assistants on Parcells’ Cowboys coaching staff who became future head coaches: Sparano, Mike Zimmer, Sean Payton, Todd Haley, Anthony Lynn, and Todd Bowles.
Sparano had been the Vikings’ offensive line coach since 2016.
He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.