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Former Titans OC Heimerdinger, 58, succumbs to cancer

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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Mike Heimerdinger, a veteran NFL assistant who coached for the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, died Friday after a 10-month battle with a rare form of cancer. He was 58.

The Titans confirmed Heimerdinger's death Saturday after talking with his family. Heimerdinger, who died while in Mexico to receive experimental cancer treatments, was the Titans' offensive coordinator when he was diagnosed with the disease in November 2010.

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"Mike approached cancer with the same vigor and tenacity that he approached any football game -- to win," Heimerdinger's wife, Kathie, said in a statement. "Even in the final minutes he never gave up -- that was our Dinger. He was a deeply devoted husband and father, loving son and brother, loyal friend and committed coach who loved the game and life."

Heimerdinger also leaves a daughter, Alicia, and a son, Brian.

Heimerdinger began chemotherapy treatment five days after the diagnosis, which came one day before Thanksgiving last November. At the time, then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Heimerdinger had been very sick for three weeks.

Heimerdinger made the trip to Houston with the team for that Sunday's game and was greeted on the field before the game by his son, then an intern with the Texans. Heimerdinger maintained his duties for the rest of the season but was fired in February, one day after Mike Munchak succeeded Fisher as the Titans' coach.

"It was a tough deal and Dinger was a tough guy to the end, which is no surprise to those who knew what type of competitor he was," Fisher said in a statement, according to ESPN.com. "He was a man's man. No matter how weak he looked, how weak he sounded, he never had a complaint and fought this cancer as you would only expect him to fight it."

David J. Phillip / Associated Press
Mike Heimerdinger had two separate stints as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.

Heimerdinger was in his second stint as the Titans' offensive coordinator. He was college roommates with veteran NFL coach Mike Shanahan and served as the receivers coach of his friend's Denver Broncos from 1995 to 1999, when the team won two Super Bowls.

Heimerdinger helped coach Steve McNair to co-MVP of the NFL with Peyton Manning in 2003 during his first run in Tennessee, where he was offensive coordinator from 2000 to 2004. He spent 2005 as offensive coordinator of the New York Jets before rejoining Shanahan in Denver as assistant head coach in 2006 and 2007, when he helped develop quarterback Jay Cutler. Then it was back to Tennessee for three seasons as offensive coordinator.

Born in DeKalb, Ill., Heimerdinger was a wide receiver and a center fielder at Eastern Illinois University, where he received a degree in history. He was inducted into Eastern Illinois' Hall of Fame in 2008. He also earned a master's degree in administration from Northern Illinois.

Heimerdinger spent four years as a high school coach in Fox Lake and McHenry, Ill., in the late 1970s, then was a coach at the Air Force Academy, North Texas State, the University of Florida, Cal State-Fullerton, Rice and Duke.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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