Former Vikings, Cowboys QB Wade Wilson dies at 60

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  • By Adam Maya NFL.com
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Former longtime NFL quarterback Wade Wilson passed away Friday in his Coppell, Texas, home, the Dallas Cowboys announced. Wilson was 60 years old.

Wilson played 19 seasons for five different teams, including his first 11 with the Minnesota Vikings. He then served as a quarterbacks coach for 17 years, including 14 with the Dallas Cowboys, where he also backed up Troy Aikman for three seasons and won Super Bowl XXX.

"Wade was a cherished and valued member of our organization as a player, a coach and a wonderful friend," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "His contributions began as a member of a Super Bowl winning team and carried on through to helping guide the development and growth of both Tony Romo and Dak Prescott.

"This is a sad day for all members of the Cowboys family as we have lost a truly great man. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones and all of the lives that he touched with his warm demeanor and his caring persona. Wade Wilson will be missed greatly -- and never forgotten."

An eighth-round selection in 1981, Wilson led the Vikings to the 1987 NFC Championship Game and then earned a Pro Bowl berth and led the NFL in passer rating the following season. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons (1992), New Orleans Saints (1993-94) and Oakland Raiders (1998-99).

Wilson finished his career with a 75.6 passer rating on 1,391-of-2,428 passing for 17,283 yards and 99 touchdowns, with a 36-33 record as a starter. He was also the Chicago Bears' QBs coach for three years.

Wilson was born in Commerce, Texas and lettered four years at East Texas State University, where he earned NAIA All-America and Lone Star Conference MVP honors as a senior while leading the conference in passing and total offense.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett


"We are so sad to hear the news of the passing of Wade Wilson. Wade was a great teammate, a fantastic coach and a dear friend to so many in our organization and throughout the NFL for over 35 years. I am forever grateful for his friendship. He had such a positive impact on me as a player, as a coach and as a person during our time together.

"He was smart, funny and had an incredible way of bringing out the best in everybody. He had a selfless attitude and always put the team first. I feel so fortunate to be among the many whose lives were made better by Wade Wilson. We love him and will miss him very much. Our most sincere condolences go out to Sherry, Travis, Hayden, Sophie, Cole, Kathy and his entire family."

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer


"Wade was a terrific person. He got along with everybody, he had a really good nature about him, and he was a very smart coach and obviously was a good player. This is sad news. When he was a coach, that's when I knew him the best, he was extremely smart. He had a really, really good way about him, a way with people. I think the biggest thing was that he had seen so many things and been able to talk about so many situations. He was a guy that always beat the odds."

Vikings equipment manager Dennis Ryan


"He was a good guy and really humble. ... He wasn't given much of a chance to really even make the team, and then I remember kind of his big breakout game, where it was like, 'Wow.' It was 1987 against the Saints down in New Orleans, and he came in and relieved Tommy in that game. We were down 10-nothing when Wade entered the game, and we ended up winning that playoff game 44-10. He quieted the loudest crowd I've ever heard on a game day, and by halftime you could hear a pin drop in that place. The next week, he followed that up with a big game against the 49ers.

"His teammates liked him, and his teammates respected him. I think his teammates gave him a bigger chance of playing probably than some of the coaches. He was tight with the guys. It wasn't the receivers and him and the quarterbacks, it was him and the O-line. ... I think Tim Irwin was drafted the same year, and they were always close and tight for their whole career here.

"He would always have me carry a bag of M&Ms on the sideline, and I always had them handy for him. He never needed them, ever. Until the one game that I got hungry during the first half, and I ate the M&Ms. He came off the field and asked me for them, and I said, 'Oh, crap' and took off running. He laughed about it -- he wasn't the type of guy who was going to be upset, but I ran back into the locker room and got another bag for him."

Former Vikings offensive tackle Tim Irwin


"Football-wise, we made a lot of yards and scored a lot of points together. But it was more than that. Our wives were great friends at the time, and we always roomed together from day one with the Vikings, until Wade left 11 years later. We were roommates constantly. We went through 11 years in Mankato together, we had a lot of fun. He was a great player, and he was self-made. He wasn't even expected to make the team when he first got there. I remember the night we both found out that we made the Vikings [roster] for the first time and how excited we were. I remember the first time -- you know, he's from Texas and I'm from Tennessee, so there was no language barrier and no accent barrier. I remember when we had the first bad taste of winter, how we both reacted to it. He was a great guy to spend your career with.

"He was my closest friend on the team and one of my closest friends ever. I will miss him. I guess the highlight to me, of his career, was when we were playing at Philadelphia and were down 19-nothing, they put him in, and he threw three bombs to Anthony Carter. I'm not sure they were all to Anthony, but they were three bombs, and we came back and won the game. And they snowed us in, so we got to stay in Philadelphia and celebrate all night.

"We had some good times. Bob Schnelker, who could be pretty cross back then when Burnsy was the head coach, Bob Schnelker when this play that we'd run back and forth, and he said, 'Wade, what was that play?' And Wade said across the meeting room, 'I just AC to haul ass and threw it to him.'

"Days were different back then, but we had a lot of great times together. We were cribbage partners, and a lot of times the game would be me and Wade and Fred Zamberletti and somebody else ...

"He was maybe the guy that Jerry Burns did the most work with. And we kept it light after practice. I remember one time, he threw a pick to the defense and we were back in the huddle, and I held up my jersey and said, 'We're in purple today.' It kind of broke things up and made things lighter in the moment. I would have had to fight you for Wade Wilson. All my quarterbacks, but particularly him. He was majorly talented. He could really throw the deep ball, and he understood the game, and he didn't get rattled back there. He was just a good player. That '87 team was the best team I was ever on, and he was a big part of it. I've got a pair of boots that he bought all the linemen the year they went to the Pro Bowl, and every time I put them on, I'll think about him. I mean, it's a tremendous blow.

"You don't want to omit the fact of how tough he was, because he played [19] years. And that's pretty hard to do in the National Football League at that position. ... He was a Bud Grant product. Bud expected you to be durable. As well as being a good player, you had to be durable or you weren't going to stay around there. He was one of those guys that was.

"He was a great friend, great roommate, great cribbage player. He was a great cribbage partner."

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