MINNEAPOLIS - The offensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Tony Sparano, died naturally of heart disease, according to a report from the medical examiner.
Sparano unexpectedly died at his home early Sunday morning, according to team officials. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner released the cause of death Monday, citing arteriosclerotic heart disease.
"I love Tony Sparano. He was a great teacher, a grinder of a worker and had a toughness and fighting spirit that showed in our linemen. He was a great husband, father and grandfather and a great friend to me. This is just sinking in for us but Tony will be sorely missed by all." - Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Sparano began his NFL coaching career in 1999 with jobs as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. 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 the Dolphins.
“I am at a loss for words with Tony’s sudden passing. Tony loved the game of football and his players. More importantly, he was a strong man of faith who treasured his family. My heart is with the Sparanos today. As an organization we will support them in whatever ways we can.” - Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
He also spent time with the Browns, Redskins, Jaguars, Cowboys and 49ers.
Sparano joined the Vikings in 2016 as offensive line coach.
He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.
Sparano was 56.
Vikings statement on the passing of Tony Sparano:
With deep regret the Minnesota Vikings announce that Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano unexpectedly passed away early this morning.
"Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony. 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." - Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf
Sparano began his NFL coaching career in 1999 with stints as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Tony served as the Vikings offensive line coach since 2016. Tony played collegiately at the University of New Haven where he was a four-year letterman. Sparano was named New Haven's head coach in 1994 and held the position for five seasons.
Tony is survived by his wife, Jeanette, his two sons; Tony and Andrew, his daughter, Ryan Leigh, and four grandchildren. Sparano was born October 7, 1961. He was 56 years old.
The Sparano family requests privacy at this time. The Vikings will provide further updates when appropriate.