The death of a well-respected NFL coach seemed to be unexpected, according to a number of news outlets covering pro football. Darryl Drake, who was just beginning his second season as the wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Sunday, according to widespread reports. He was 62 years old.
ABC 15 in Arizona, where Drake was the Arizona Cardinals wide receivers coach from 2013-17, reported that the married father and grandfather “died suddenly.” ESPN reported the same. But that seemed to be one of the few hints, if not the only one, about Drake’s cause of death, which was not officially disclosed among the multiple reports.
Steelers President Art Rooney II issued a brief statement of condolences earlier in the day, saying in part that the team was “at a loss for words following Darryl Drake’s passing this morning.”
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Drake coached a game this weekend without any apparent issue.
“Drake coached in the Steelers preseason opener against Tampa Bay Friday night,” the Post-Gazette wrote in its obituary Sunday afternoon. “Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians spoke with Drake before the game. They coached together in Arizona when Arians was the head coach there.”
Former NFL player Jerraud Powers tweeted on Sunday that he “just was laughing and talking with coach Drake before the game Friday.”
Drake’s death was apparently so unexpected that the Steelers canceled the team’s practice that was scheduled to be held at Saint Vincent College in nearby Latrobe on Sunday.
Drake was remembered by many across social media as one of the game’s best wide receivers coaches, a testament backed up by many of his former players as well as fans.
Dwayne Penn, one of Drake’s former players at Western Kentucky University in 1987 and 1988, told the Post-Gazette that he considered Drake a mentor and friend who he has enjoyed a relationship with for three decades.
“I was just getting ready to call him,” Penn said to the Post-Gazette on Sunday. “Coach Drake was like a big brother to me. He wasn’t my position coach, but he was a mentor. He went to the NFL. He knew what it would take. He saw some of the same traits in me. We’d always talk before and after practice. He was such a good father, a family man. He was one of those guys who was more than a coach. He had a big impact on the team. He was the ultimate leader. He would come to the field early and stayed late. He lived it.”
Scroll down to see just how revered of a coach and man Drake was, as shown by the outpouring of condolences on social media from friends, colleagues and players.