Former Tennessee Coach Avezzano Dies In Italy

Friday, April 06, 2012 - by John Painter, UTSports.com

KNOXVILLE -- Joe Avezzano, a popular Dallas Cowboys special teams assistant who began his coaching career under Johnny Majors, died Thursday afternoon in Italy of an apparent heart attack. Avezzano was 68.

Avezzano reportedly was working out on a treadmill in Milan when he suffered the heart attack around 5 p.m. Central European Time, according to the Milan Seamen pro football team’s website.

Last September, Avezzano was named head coach of the Italian Football League squad.

Avezzano is widely known for the 13 seasons he spent with Dallas, where he served as special teams coach and became a fan and media favorite. He worked through four different head coaches with the Cowboys and was an integral part of Super Bowl championship teams in 1992, 1993 and 1995.

Before that, Avezzano spent three seasons at Tennessee under Majors, serving from 1977-79 as offensive coordinator after following the Vols head coach first from Iowa State to Pittsburgh and then Pittsburgh to UT.

Quick Improvement

Those were the first three years for Majors at UT as head coach, and the Vols began improving quickly thanks to Avezzano at the offensive helm. Tennessee went from 4-7 in 1977 to 5-5-1 and then 7-5 in 1979 with a berth in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

“Joe Avezzano was an outstanding football coach and an extremely valuable part of our three programs at Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee,” Major said Thursday afternoon. “He provided outstanding coaching in the offensive line, as good as I ever had.

“He also was an extremely loyal coach and added a tremendous amount of color, excitement, and superb talent as a recruiter during his years with me and my staff. He brought in some outstanding talent to Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee from his home state of Florida and specifically his hometown of Miami.”

Avezzano left after that third UT season to become head coach at Oregon State, where he compiled a disappointing 6-47-2 record in five seasons. One highlight was his first Beavers win in 1981 after 14 straight losses, a 31-28 victory against Fresno State. In that game, Oregon State rallied from a 28-0 deficit for what was the biggest come-from-behind victory in NCAA history.

Moved to Miami

Born Nov. 17, 1943, in Yonkers, N.Y., Avezzano moved at an early age to Miami and earned 11 high school letters in the sports of football, basketball and baseball. He was class president at Jackson High School and a member of the honor society.

It was then on to college at Florida State for Avezzano, who was eagerly recruited by a number of schools but decided to remain in his home state. He played guard for the Seminoles and probably considered the 36-19 Gator Bowl victory over Oklahoma in 1965 a treasured remembrance. Avezzano earned his FSU degree in criminology that same year.

Avezzano played one season for the AFL’s Boston Patriots before beginning his coaching career at famed Massillon (Ohio) High School. From there he returned to Florida State as a graduate assistant and then joined Majors at Iowa State in 1969. Majors promoted him to line coach in 1970.

“Joe Avezzano, Jimmy Johnson and Jackie Sherrill all coached for me at Iowa State, and all three were 24 or 25 years old when they started,” Majors said. “It was quite a staff.”

Undefeated Season

Majors and Avezzano coached together for four seasons at Iowa State before moving to Pittsburgh in 1973. The Panthers won the 1976 national championship in undefeated fashion, finishing 12-0. Majors then returned to Tennessee, his alma mater, and brought Avezzano along with him.

After his Oregon State venture failed, Avezzano caught on as an assistant under Sherrill at Texas A&M from 1985-88. The Aggies won three Southwest Conference titles and two Cotton Bowls during that stretch, and Avezzano’s success led to his hiring by Johnson and the Cowboys in 1990.

“He became an outstanding special teams coach with Dallas,” Majors said of the NFL’s Special Teams Coach of the Year in both 1991 and 1993. “He was very colorful and added a lot of excitement to the staff, wherever he was, in addition to being very productive. That’s why he was always so well-liked.

“I’m going to miss him.”

Avezzano is survived by his wife, Diann, and his son, Tony.

 

(E-mail Stan Crawley at wscrawley@earthlink.net)


CTA Hosts Elementary School Tennis Workshop

Elementary age kids throughout Hamilton County are taught how to play kick ball, baseball, basketball and football and more during each school year. The Chattanooga Tennis Association believes its time to add tennis to that regular sports diet for kids K-5. The CTA staff, teaching pros throughout the city and the Hamilton County Board of Education also ... (click for more)

Roberts Blast Leads Bryan To 13-10 Win

The Bryan College baseball hosted University of the Cumberlands this Tuesday evening.  The Lions struck first off of a solo homerun by Tyler Latham.  The Patriots scored four runs in the second inning and one in the third to take the lead.  Bryan scored two run in the third.  Cumberlands turned around and scored two in the fourth.  Kelvin McMiller hit ... (click for more)

City Set To Move Ahead On Study For Light Rail System; But Some Council Members Skeptical

City officials are set to move ahead in applying for a grant to study setting up a light rail system in Chattanooga, though some City Council members are skeptical. Blythe Bailey, city transportation director, said it might cost $20 million to set up a system that would use the Missionary Ridge Tunnel to go from downtown to the Chattanooga Airport as well as the Enterprise South ... (click for more)

Funeral Arrangements Set For Renee Card Monroe, Killed Monday In ATV Accident

Funeral arrangements have been set for Renee Card Monroe, 60, who was killed, along with her two grandchildren, Reagan and Jaxson Cohen, in an ATV accident on Monday when their ATV toppled into a pond. A lifelong resident of Chattanooga, Ms. Monroe was an active member of Eastwood Baptist Church where she helped lead a small Bible study group. Ms. Monroe was an entrepreneur ... (click for more)

UAW Is Dropping Appeal Because Of Opposition

Let's tell the truth here: the UAW attempted infiltration of the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn. a couple of years back and lost. They appealed to the NLRB three times and each time the vote went against the UAW more and more.   When you consider the local political opposition, citizenry and worker opposition, sentiment toward the UAW is even more staggering in Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Clemson Prayer And Much More

Clemson’s football program, which has won 11 games in each of the past two years and was ranked 8 th in the nation after whipping Ohio State in this year’s Orange Bowl, has just been “blind-sided.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation claims Coach Dabo Sweeney and his staff are doing far too much “to promote Christianity to their student athletes.” Clemson promptly roared back ... (click for more)