NFL great passes away in Carbondale
CARBONDALE ” Former Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL Hall of Famer Ernie Stautner died Thursday at Heritage Park Care Center. He was 80.
Stautner had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since 1998, his wife Jill Stautner said. She said that her husband had been at Heritage Park for a little more than a week before his death.
Jill Stautner lives in the Eagle-Vail area.
Even with the disease, Jill said that her husband enjoyed the Steelers’ 21-10 win in Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5.
“Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers owner) called today and asked if Ernie got to see the game and I said ‘Yes, he enjoyed it very much.'”
Stautner played his entire 14-year career with the Steelers and was named to nine Pro Bowls and four All-NFL teams as a defensive lineman.
He may have been best known during his coaching days with the Dallas Cowboys under legendary coach Tom Landry.
Stautner coached the defensive line for the Cowboys from 1966-72 and served as the team’s defensive coordinator from 1973-88.
Jill and Ernie Stautner met while he was coaching with the Cowboys and she worked in the organizations’ business office and have been married since 1991.
He was also a defensive line coach for the Denver Broncos under Dan Reeves from 1991-93.
The Stautners have had a home in the Vail area since 1989. Jill said she and Ernie loved skiing the slopes around Vail.
“He even skied after he had both his knees replaced (in 1992). Against the doctor’s orders of course,” Jill said with a laugh.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969. During his playing days, he was one of the lone bright spots for the Steelers, which never had a winning record during Stautner’s playing days.
During his coaching days with the Cowboys, Stautner found himself facing the Steelers in two Super Bowls.
“He hated the Steelers then,” Jill said with another laugh. “When he wanted a Super Bowl ring he didn’t like them too much.”
Even though the Cowboys lost the two Super Bowl meetings with the Steelers, Stautner won two rings while coaching with the Cowboys in 1971 and 1978.
“They love him in Pittsburgh and Dallas,” Jill said.
Despite the Steelers’ illustrious 73-year history, Stautner’s jersey ” No. 70 ” remains the only number ever retired by the organization.
“I think that’s one of the things he was most proud of. That and being part of the winning Super Bowl teams,” Jill said.
As a player, Stautner was a dominating and fierce 6-1, 230-pound defensive lineman. But Jill said he was just the opposite off the field.
“He was a real teddy bear, I don’t think he would like hearing that. He was a very gentle man,” she said.
Jill said that Dallas Hall of Fame defensive lineman Randy White and Bob Lilly were two of her husband’s favorite players whom he coached, and they remained good friends throughout Stautner’s life.
Stautner was born in Germany and immigrated with his family to Albany, N.Y., when he was 3. After serving in the Marines, Stautner played at Boston College and was selected by the Steelers in the 1950 NFL draft.
Stautner’s final coaching stop was with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe where he was the head coach from 1994-97.
Survivors include his wife, five daughters and six grandchildren.
Services will be in Lewisville, Texas.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.