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Vikings coach Sparano died of heart disease

Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn.—Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano died Sunday from arteriosclerotic heart disease, the Hennepin County medical examiner's office announced Monday.

According to the report, Sparano, 56, died at his home in Eden Prairie at 8:54 a.m. Police said Sunday a 911 call came in regarding Sparano at 8:07 a.m.

The medical examiner's office said it had no other information to release at this time.

ESPN reported Sunday that Sparano went to a hospital Thursday after having chest pain. After undergoing tests, he was released Friday.

ESPN reported that Sparano and his wife, Jeanette, were about to go to church Sunday morning. She then found Sparano unconscious in the kitchen, and her attempts to revive him were not successful.

According to the Mayo Clinic web site, "Arteriosclerosis occurs when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body (arteries) become thick and stiff — sometimes restricting blood flow to your organs and tissues."

Sparano was on the Vikings' coaching staff the past two seasons after being hired in January 2016. On Monday, the scoreboard at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan displayed a large photograph of Sparano and the words "In memory of Tony Sparano, 1961-2018."

The Vikings begin training camp this week. Rookies report Tuesday and have their first practice Wednesday. Veterans report Friday and participate in the first full-squad workout on Saturday.

A number of Vikings players have posted tributes to Sparano on social media, including some offensive linemen. Guard Mike Remmers wrote, "Our hearts are heavy hearing about the passing of Coach Sparano." Center Pat Elflein wrote, "You will be missed by many." Tackle Storm Norton wrote, "One of best coaches I've had the opportunity to play for. Thankful for all I've learned from him."

Tackle Aviante Collins said in a phone interview Sunday that Sparano "was like a father figure" to the offensive linemen.

Joe Linta, the agent for Norton and Vikings guard Nick Easton, said Monday his clients were devastated. "I know how much of an impact he made on the guys," Linta said. "Nick and Storm Norton were just rocked by the whole thing."

Linta was the defensive line coach during two seasons in which Sparano played center for Division II University of New Haven in the early 1980s. As an agent, Linta later had dealings with Sparano for players he represented, including when Sparano was head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2008-11 and interim coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2014.

"It's devastating," Linta said of Sparano's death. "You just feel for his family."

Linta said he anticipated when Sparano played in college that he would go on to have a successful career in football. Sparano was New Haven's head coach from 1994-98 before moving up to the NFL in 1999.

"He was 5-9, 5-10, 240 pounds, but he was as tough a kid as you could ever find," Linta said of Sparano as a player. "It never surprised me at how successful he became because of the way he exhibited himself on a college football field. ... I was the defensive line coach and he was an offensive lineman, and when I coached, I yelled at him for being too tough on my D-linemen."

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