Joe Avezzano, a former Dallas Cowboys assistant coach when the franchise won its three most recent Super Bowl titles, died Thursday in Italy.
Avezzano was 68.
Avezzano, the head coach of the Milano Seamen of the Italian Football League, was reportedly running on a treadmill when he suffered a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Diann, and his son, Tony.
"It just breaks my heart," said former Cowboys player Bill Bates, who was regarded for his contributions on special teams. "Joe changed people’s lives in a positive way. If you were around him enough, you would be affected by his ability to make people smile."
A popular figure in the Cowboys organization, Avezzano supervised the special teams units from 1990-2002, working under head coaches Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Dave Campo.
"Joe was an outstanding person and he did a great job coaching for me," Johnson said. "My thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
Let’s do a quick flashback to a month ago and a three-way verbal exchange among famous local football names:
Jimmy Johnson, giving opinions weekly on the Fox-TV pre- and postgame Sunday NFL show, said as a fan of Jason Garrett, he would suggest the Cowboys’ young head coach hire an offensive coordinator for next season and concentrate on being a full-time head coach.
Garrett was asked about the opinion, and while pledging his respect for Jimmy, said he would continue as head coach/offensive coordinator in the future.
Jerry Jones was asked for his thoughts on the subject, and immediately shot down the Jimmy idea, saying he didn’t approve of a "walk-around head coach," although not mentioning he’s had three of them — Johnson, Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells, a trio with five Super Bowl titles combined.
Jimmy’s zinger reply to Jerry:
"He doesn’t like it because Jerry thinks he’s the walk-around head coach."
So it ended it with that chuckle-moment, and we all moved on.
Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray plays like first-rounder | Cowboys running back setting franchise records
IRVING, Texas — Jerry Jones routinely requests that his old buddy Barry Switzer studies college running backs, heavily weighing the former coach’s opinions on the position while building the Dallas Cowboys’ draft board.
Switzer didn’t need to watch a single play from the film the Cowboys sent last offseason to strongly recommend Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray.
Today the Cowboys will induct Larry Allen, Charles Haley and Drew Pearson into the Ring of Honor. It’s the first time the Cowboys have conducted such an event since the Triplets in 2005.
With that we look at ten players who might be next for the Jerry Jones committee of one to consider.
Harvey Martin.No name resonates more with former Cowboys players than this man. He led the Cowboys in sacks seven times, is the unofficial franchise leader with 114 and holds the single-season mark of 23 sacks in the 1977 season. Before there was Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware, Martin along with Randy White and Bob Lilly set the standard for pass rushers in franchise history.
Bill Bates.A special teams ace and despite making just one Pro Bowl, 1984, he was a beloved figure in Cowboys lore. When you think of outstanding special teams players in Cowboys history, Bates’ name comes up first. Nobody was better on a unit the causal fan knew nothing about.
Darren Woodson. A three-time All Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler won three Super Bowl titles. He was a talented safety who not only covered tight ends but wide receivers. His presence is still felt at Valley Ranch, because the Cowboys have not replaced him and his signature is inside a locker of former safety Roy Williams, that’s now the home of cornerback Terence Newman.
Everson Walls. He led the Cowboys in interceptions five times, is second all-time in franchise history with 44 and still holds the single-season record with 11 picks in 1981. The 11 picks is also the franchise record for a rookie. It would be nice if Walls gets in with Martin, another Dallas native.
Jimmy Johnson. The second coach in Cowboys history rebuilt the franchise and won two Super Bowl titles and the third one, XXX in 1995 was with Barry Switzer, but it was Johnson’s team. The ending was bad, but there’s no denying what Johnson meant to the franchise.
Charlie Waters. A three-time Pro Bowler at strong safety, Waters started 22 of 25 playoff games. He was a fierce hitter who gets lost because we talk so much about Cliff Harris. Waters is considered one of the top safeties in Cowboys history.
Deion Sanders.He made his mark with Atlanta, yet, Sanders was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro and of course won one title with the Cowboys. Sanders holds the career mark for punt return average at 13.3. He was the first big money free agency signed by the Cowboys and he was a playmaker on defense and special teams.
Daryl Johnston. When Emmitt Smith broke the all-time rushing mark, he hugged this man. Johnston didn’t miss a game from 1992-to-1995. Johnston is one of the best fullbacks in franchise history, and his blocks paved the way for Smith to get a bulk of his yardage.
Danny White. The third-round pick from Arizona State, made only one Pro Bowl, and he had just one losing season in the years he started, 1987 where he compiled a 3-6 mark at age 35. He took the Cowboys to three NFC title games, never advancing to the Super Bowl. White is second in completions in franchise history at 1,761.
Mark Stepnoski.A five-time Pro Bowler who won three titles. But here’s a little known fact: He was named to the second-team of the 1990s All-Decade team. Stepnoski was a solid player during his era, not only with the Cowboys but in the NFL as well.