Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote about the passing of former Vols assistant coach Joe Avezzano in his Monday Morning QB.
RIP, Coach Joe.
Joe Avezzano was always in search of another coaching gig, or another country song. And if he couldn't find a coaching gig here, he'd go anywhere. That's why he was in Italy when he died of a heart attack while on a treadmill Thursday, preparing to coach the Milano Seamen of the Italian league.
In 1991, I went on a scouting trip prior to the draft with the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. The Cowboys used their coaches to scout. So on this trip, to North Carolina State, Tennessee, Michigan State and Notre Dame, Jimmy Johnson brought some of his key guys along: Norv Turner and Hubbard Alexander on offense, Butch Davis and Dave Wannstedt on defense, and Avezzano, the special teams coach, to look at the punters and kickers. Fascinating trip. That was the draft enriched by the Herschel Walker trade, and others, and the Cowboys picked Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper and Dixon Edwards, among others that year.
But the star of the trip was Avezzano. Boy, did he know how to have a good time. The group went to Tennessee coach Johnny Majors' house (that's how long ago this trip happened -- Majors was the Vol coach) one night, staying long past 12, and Avezzano picked up a guitar and started crooning. "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys'' was first. Avezzano was no phony. The man could sing, and he could play the guitar. Then, to Majors' delight, Avezzano launched into a rousing "Rocky Top'' rendition.
"Rocky Top, you'll always be,
Home sweet home to me.
Good ol' Rocky top,
Rocky Top Tennessee!''
By the end of it, he had everyone doing the chorus. And I thought it was a good thing that Majors didn't have any neighbors close by. They'd have all been woken up by the bad singing.
"Joe,'' Johnson said to him on that trip, "I wish you could just learn to relax a little bit.''
Don't let that give you the wrong impression of the guy. He could coach the kicking game. Three times he was named special teams coach of the year, and he was part of three Super Bowl championship teams in Dallas, where he coached for 13 years. And TV networks loved him, because he was one of the most demonstrative coaches ever. A sideline ranter, with that wild white hair. Other than Johnson, he was easily the most charismatic and well-known of the Dallas coaches on that staff. Just an unforgettable man.