Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who spent more than 30 years moulding some of the best players at the position at both the collegiate and professional level, has died. He was 62.
“We are at a loss for words following Darryl Drake’s passing this morning,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said.
“Darryl had such an impact on the players he coached and everyone he worked with throughout his entire career.
“He was a passionate coach and had a tremendous spirit toward life, his family, his faith and the game of football.”
Drake, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, played collegiately at Western Kentucky.
He spent one season in the Canadian Football League and participated in a pair of NFL training camps before returning to Western Kentucky to pursue a master's degree.
He went into coaching as a graduate assistant at Western Kentucky in 1983, the beginning of a career that included stops in the college ranks at Georgia, Baylor and Texas.
“He had a tremendous impact on those who he coached and those who were fortunate to call him a teammate,” WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said.
“WKU Football was better because of our association with him.”
Drake reached the NFL as a receivers coach in 2004 with the Chicago Bears .
He moved on to the same position with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 before joining Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's staff in 2018.
Drake's pupils through the years include Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald, longtime NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Antonio Brown , who played for Drake in 2018 before being traded to Oakland last spring.
NFL world in shock
“Darryl was a close friend and had a tremendous impact on my coaching career,” Tomlin said.
“He was an amazing husband, father and grandfather, and it is difficult to put into words the grief our entire team is going through right now.
“Darryl loved the game of football and every player he ever coached. We will use our faith to guide us and help his family throughout the difficult time.”
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, who coached alongside Drake in Arizona, called Drake “a really good coach and an even better friend.”
“The NFL coaching community lost a really good person that always took a great personal interest in the lives of the players he coached and the staff he worked with,” Kitchens added.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who played under Drake in Chicago, tweeted that Drake “had a huge impact on me as a young player. His players loved him.”
Drake is survived by his wife, Sheila, daughters Shanice, Felisha and Marian as well as two grandchildren.
Pittsburgh cancelled practices at Saint Vincent College on both Sunday and Monday after announcing Drake's death.
Words can’t describe the devastating loss of Coach Darryl Drake today. At Georgia, Coach Drake was my mentor and father figure. My thoughts and prayers go out to momma Sheila and the girls. RIP, Coach. You will be missed by many.— Hines Ward (@mvp86hinesward) August 11, 2019
On behalf of the Pitt football program, our deepest sympathies to the family of Darryl Drake and the entire Steelers organization. A great coach and man who leaves a tremendous legacy.— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) August 11, 2019
Seeing on my timeline all the wonderful things said about long-time College & NFL coach Darryl Drake and how he touched coaches/players/people lives. After he left the Cardinals I would see him at the Combine always had time to chat. #RIP pic.twitter.com/KLI6VDe7wR— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) August 11, 2019
Today we mourn the untimely passing of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. Darryl was the former Bears wide receivers coach under Lovie Smith from 2004-12, including the 2006 Super Bowl appearance.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 11, 2019
My condolences to the family of Darryl Drake. A Western Kentucky playing and coaching great, may he rest in peace.— Tyson Helton (@Coach_Helton) August 11, 2019
Shared a lot of genuine laughs with this man over my career. We lost a great one. You are missed Darryl Drake #ripdrake @peanuttillman @BUrlacher54 bobbywadeaz @b_twice @rashieddavis moosemuhammad5 @alexbrown96 https://t.co/7k1FwPIka9— Lance Briggs (@LanceBriggs) August 11, 2019
Darryl Drake was well-liked throughout Steelers organization for his bright personality, football acumen and caring nature. During practices, everyone from WR to Ben Roethlisberger could be seen chatting him up. My favorite Drake line during drills: ‘Don’t drag the toe, click it'— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 11, 2019
Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Darryl Drake. It is impossible to overstate his impact on the game in nearly four decades as a coach in college and the NFL.— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 11, 2019
Today, the entire football community mourns his loss.
Darryl Drake was one of the nicest coaches I ever came into contact with in the NFL. We spoke at length Wednesday. We did a short interview and then talked about what we did over the summer and our families for another 20 minutes. He was so proud of his three daughters.— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 11, 2019