The son of longtime NFL coach Tony Sparano will return to Minnesota a little more than three weeks after his father’s death and step onto the same practice fields his dad roamed the last three years. It won’t be easy for the younger Sparano, an assistant offensive line coach with Jacksonville.
Marrone offered to let Sparano stay behind in Jacksonville, realizing how difficult the trip might be for him. But Sparano declined and opted to head north with his football family.
The elder Sparano was set to begin another season as Vikings offensive line coach when he died unexpectedly July 22, just a few days before the start of training camp. He died of natural causes from arteriosclerotic heart disease, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said the following day. Sparano, 56, collapsed in the kitchen of his home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, while he was getting ready to leave for church with his wife, Jeanette.
Sparano Jr., 31, missed the first week of Jaguars camp to be with his family. Sparano has declined interview requests since his return and wasn’t expected to talk publicly in Minnesota. The joint practices surely would have been special for the Sparano family. Father and son coached together in 2011 at Miami (Senior was the head coach; Junior was an offensive quality control coach) and in 2012 with the New York Jets (Senior was the offensive coordinator; Junior was an intern).