- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- When Joe Avezzano joined Jimmy Johnson’s staff in 1990, Bill Bates knew the Cowboys were getting a good coach.
As a freshman at Tennessee, Bates was coached by Avezzano.
News of Avezzano’s death has hit Bates hard.
“We were lifelong friends from my days at the University of Tennesse. He coached there for a year so I knew him from my freshman year,” Bates said. “Having him come to Dallas and be the special teams coach in the early ‘90s was a blessing to me. To have somebody I knew I could actually help in the coaching process and feel truly like a player-coach on the field, it was great getting that coaching experience never knowing I was going to play as long as I did.”
Bates played for the Cowboys from 1983-97, overlapping with Avezzano for eight seasons, including three Super Bowl wins.
Bates was one of the NFL’s pre-eminent special teams’ players and Avezzano became one of the best and most popular special teams coaches.
“Those kinds of coaches that have the ability to motivate players and do it in a way when sometimes you need to have a coach in your face yelling at you and a few plays later you’ve got a coach that’s hugging your neck, that’s the difference between old-school coaching and the way coach Avezzano coached,” Bates said. “You knew coach Avezzano wasn’t just worried about his job, but also the life of people. Anytime you were around him, man, you always had a smile on your face. He was always bringing laughter even in the tough times.
“For me, the memories with him and his family through a lot of years, some bad years but also some great years, will always be remembered.”