Former Cowboys assistant Joe Avezzano dies

Former Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano died of a heart attack in Italy on Thursday.

Avezzano, 68, reportedly suffered a heart attack while running on a treadmill. He was coaching in the Italian Football League.

"Joe Avezzano was a very special part of our Dallas Cowboys family and our organization's history," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "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. 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 coached with the Cowboys from 1990-2002, winning three Super Bowl titles during that span. He was also named the NFL's special teams coach of the year three times during that time.

He was not retained when Bill Parcells became head coach in 2003. Avezzano went on to coach the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League before becoming the special teams coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2003-2005.

A popular figure around town, Avezzano owned Coach Joe's Hat Tricks, a bar and restaurant in Lewisville.

Avezzano played guard at Florida State and was drafted by the Boston Patriots in 1966.

He got his coaching career started at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, and then coached at Florida State in 1968 and at Iowa State University (1969-1972). He was offensive line coach at the University of Pittsburgh (1973-1976) before taking the offensive coordinator job at the University of Tennessee (1977-1979).

In December 1979, Avezzano was hired as a head coach for the first time at Oregon State University. He posted a record of 6-47-2 in five seasons at the helm.

After being fired from Oregon State, Avezzano was the offensive line coach at Texas A&M from 1985-1988. The Aggies won three Southwest Conference titles and two Cotton Bowls during his time there.