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Across the NFL, condolences for a coaching legend

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -At NFL training camps around the country, Bill Walsh was remembered for his keen eye for talent and innovative approach to offense.

"Bill was blessed with one of the greatest gifts you can have which is the ability to see the future potential of another human being," said Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who joined Walsh's San Francisco 49ers as a backup to Joe Montana and later became the starter and a Super Bowl MVP.

Walsh died at his Woodside home Monday morning following a long battle with leukemia. He was 75.

Walsh's proteges are all over the NFL, including Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win after getting his start as an assistant under Walsh with the 49ers.

"He took a chance on me. I was four years removed from a high school coach. It usually doesn't work that way," Holmgren said before receiving word of Walsh's death.

"He looked at how to put everything together and how to do it differently. I always said he was an artist and the rest of us were blacksmiths pounding the anvil while he was painting the picture."

Former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula called Walsh "a great competitor."

"The offensive philosophy he installed in those great 49ers teams more than 25 years ago will remain his legacy and is still very much a part of the NFL to this day," said Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history.

Fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy was hired to coach California in 1960 and happened upon Walsh when he was putting together his staff. Levy spoke to a coach at San Jose State, who recommended Walsh, then head coach at Fremont's Washington High School.

Levy, 81, who would later go on to become the winningest coach in Buffalo Bills history, hired Walsh to be Cal's freshmen coach.

"I couldn't predict 'Oh, he's going to be in the Hall of Fame someday.' But I could see right away how bright he was," said Levy, remembering his first interview with Walsh. "I just sensed that this guy is uniquely bright."

Oakland Raiders running backs coach Tom Rathman, who played for Walsh's 49ers, said Walsh was a demanding coach.

"His presence put pressure on you," Rathman said. "I mean, when he walked out of that locker room, it was all about football, getting your minds right. But that's just the personality he had and the impact he had on a team."

Cowboys and former 49ers receiver Terrell Owens never played for Walsh, but the former coach was still around the team when he was in San Francisco.

"When you talk about a Hall of Fame coach, a guy who's won Super Bowls, for me just to have the opportunity to speak with him and be around him on an every day basis when I was in San Francisco was definitely an honor," Owens said."

Walsh's first signature victory in the NFL came in 1982, when his upstart 49ers beat Tom Landry's Cowboys in the NFC championship game, thanks to the "The Catch" - Dwight Clark's winning touchdown reception from Montana in the final minute.

"His offensive philosophies changed the game in the 1980s, and his influence helped so many of his assistant coaches move on to the next level," current Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "He was a wonderful contributor to this league, and his impact will be felt for years to come."

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who coached against Walsh during his first stint with Washington during the 1980s, called Walsh "one of the most creative people in the sport."

"I don't know that when it counted we ever beat them out there," Gibbs said. "That's where we really got hurt. I think we would have been to another two or three Super Bowls if we could have got through the 49ers at their place, and whenever they had home field advantage it didn't seem we could get it done out there."

Current 49ers head coach Mike Nolan never worked for Walsh, but he has always considered him a mentor.

"I will miss my weekly talks with Bill each Monday following our games. He was always so supportive and always offered some thoughts to help me in any way he could," Nolan said. "He was not only an outstanding coach but a tremendous role model for every one associated with the 49ers and our fans."

Associated Press writers Josh Dubow in Napa, Calif., Joseph White in Washington, D.C. and John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y. contributed to this report.

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