Obituary: Joe Daniels / Football coach at Pitt, other colleges, NFL

Nov. 15, 1942 - Dec. 4, 2011


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Bethel Park native and longtime college and NFL coach Joe Daniels died Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

Mr. Daniels was an assistant coach at University of Pittsburgh from 1980 to 1982. During those three seasons he coached under Jackie Sherrill (1980-81) and Foge Fazio (1982).

He coached the Panthers running backs in 1980 and then was moved to quarterbacks coach in 1981. He had a pretty good player to work with -- future Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

Mr. Fazio was promoted to head coach when Mr. Sherrill left for Texas A&M in 1982. Mr. Daniels was then promoted by Mr. Fazio to offensive coordinator while retaining his duties as quarterbacks coach.

Mr. Daniels was involved in calling one of the most famous plays in Pitt history in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia on Jan. 1, 1982. The Panthers trailed 20-17 with 42 seconds left and faced a fourth-and-5 at the Bulldogs 33. Mr. Marino hit tight end John Brown with a touchdown pass to lift the Panthers to a 24-20 win and an 11-1 season.

"I remember sitting in the press box with Joe, and after that touchdown pass the first thing we looked for was a yellow flag on the ground," recalled Alex Kramer, who was an administrative assistant to the head coach for 17 years at Pitt before he retired in 1995.

"Once we saw no flag, you could imagine the elation we all had, especially Joe, because he had a very important role in calling plays and coaching the offense. He was a very humble person, though. He didn't ever want to take any credit for any play calls or for any of the success of any of his players.

"He was very low-key about everything, which is why all of the other coaches liked him. He was always more interested in Pitt's success than his own self-glorification."

Mr. Daniels spent 39 years as a coach and several more years as an athletics administrator, both on the collegiate and professional levels.

Mr. Daniels played running back for Slippery Rock University before graduating in 1964 with a degree in physical education. His coaching career also included collegiate positions with Boston College, West Virginia and Cincinnati and in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

His last stop was at Ohio State, where he worked as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator from 2001 to 2009. According to the Columbus Dispatch, he was the lead recruiter in the school's recruitment of Jeannette quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who played for the Buckeyes in 2008-2010.

Mr. Daniels moved into a more administrative role of personnel development at the school in 2009. He was instrumental in the development of many outstanding players, including 2006 Heisman Trophy winner and All-American quarterback Troy Smith of Ohio State. He also coached many NFL standouts such as Ken O'Brien, Andre Reed, Ozzie Newsome and Mr. Marino.

Mr. Daniels was inducted into the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

He was first diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2006 after a mild heart attack and had battled various illnesses and health conditions until his death.

"Joe coached at many places," said Jim Bollman, Ohio State offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, "and there were many, many players throughout his time who have been affected by him. And many of them have reached out and called him these last few months, from the Dan Marinos on down, just to touch base with their former coach.

"That's because he was such a great man and a wonderful family man. His family was very precious to him, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to know them."

Mr. Daniels is survived by his wife of 31 years, Kathy; a son, Matt; a daughter, Kaitlin; and one grandson.

The funeral is scheduled Friday in Columbus. Arrangements handled by Schoedinger Northeast Chapel, Gahanna, Ohio.


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720. First Published December 7, 2011 5:00 AM


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