The Vikings canceled practice Friday, but because of the reason, they would have preferred to practice and have Tony Sparano yelling at his linemen.
Instead, the Vikings were among the 250 people who honored their assistant coach’s memory during what was described as an emotional funeral service. Sparano, who had coached the Vikings offensive linemen the past two years, died Sunday from heart disease. He was 56.
“He was a great coach [and] just a hell of a person,” former Jets head coach Rex Ryan said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “He was my kind of guy. He was a tough ass, but he was just special. He had a great rapport with his players. You knew what you were going to get from him. He was an honest man. Just a great coach.”
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer were joined at the service by the rest of the team as well as Ryan, Saints coach Sean Payton, Rob Ryan and many of Sparano’s former players.
“I thought that [Sparano’s wife] Jeanette was just amazing,” said Matthew Mulligan, one of Sparano’s former players in Miami. “Her eulogy, there was not a dry eye in the place. The thing that I got from the whole deal, she was saying, ‘It was faith, family, football for Tony,’ but that he was the best father and unrivaled as far as his compassion and love for his family.”