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Heart Broken


team, the Dallas Desperados, when they didn't know squat about arena ball in the first place and think they could succeed?

Coach Joe did.

Who then in their right mind would think he could star in a reality TV show, Michael Irvin's Fourth And Long, when they had never been involved in any sort of TV series, and not only think they could, but be head strong – believe me, he was – in their belief that the winner of the show actually had a chance to make the Dallas Cowboys roster?

Coach Joe did.

Same with investing in others' restaurants, then starting one of his own – Coach Joe's, of course – and buying another in Lewisville, Texas, turning Hat Tricks, a sports bar and pool/dart hall, into also a music hall, booking such acts as Jason D. Williams and Beth Hart over the past year?

Coach Joe did.

And after dabbling in local TV and radio following his coaching career of 22 years in college and then 16 in the NFL, who – now really, just who – would find and accept a gig in Milano, coaching American football in an Italian league?

You kidding me, Joe was in heaven the last three months, living in the country his parents were born, eating the food he grew up eating, drinking the wine he loved to drink, immersing himself in the culture and, and on top of all that, my gosh he was coaching football again. The head coach, don't you know.

See what I'm talking about? He never dealt in could. He would.

And this also is why the news and reality of his untimely death at the age of 68 had just left me speechless. Just couldn't talk about it. Didn't know what to say or how to rationalize it in my mind. I mean for four years we did The Coach Joe Show on The Ticket together, going from that initial audience of five to probably more than 500 in my modest estimation during our annual pre-Christmas show when Joe would always book his jogging partner to appear, Troy Aikman.

We did a weekly, hour-long radio gig during his two seasons as the Desperados head coach. We participated in Cowboys pregame and postgame radio shows over the past several years on The Fan. Maybe the most fun, and probably to the consternation of long-time radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys Brad Sham since he was dealing with two Italian guys who would not shut up, even at the snap of the ball, we combined in the radio booth with Brad for several preseason game radio broadcasts these past couple of years. Have mercy, Mickey and Joe talking football.

Then there was this, I don't know, maybe five-year run, where Joe and I were involved with Irving-based Crossroads, a non-profit organization helping struggling single mothers re-enter the work force and teaching life-management skills never learned. At its annual fund raising gala, a silent auction item was called something like "An Italian Dinner," and a friend of mine convinced me people would pay good money for their group to go to dinner with Joe and me at a local Italian Restaurant. Kidding me? But darn if they didn't, and Joe would always make it so worth their while, not to mention the unimaginable serious bucks they donated.

That was Coach Joe.

And his son, Tony, told me his dad was the Coach Joe we came to know to the very end. See, while most would think what Joe was doing in Italy was a great retirement gig, living the good Italian life and working a few hours with a bunch of guys probably not even good enough to play college ball in the states, not Joe. Un-uh, not my Coach Joe.

Tony said he had talked to his dad about an hour before the heart attack struck, making plans to join him for a visit. But Joe, as Holy Thursday was approaching, Tony said, was "typical dad," all hot under the collar because the players didn't want to practice the next few days during the holy weekend. They wanted off. Hey, holiday in Italy is sacred stuff, and by golly Joe wasn't giving any quarter to nearing 70. Sounded from what Tony told me it was a good thing Joe was in Milan and the Pope was in Rome, hopefully with the Vatican windows shut at that. I could just hear him.

Typical Joe, but also guarantee you he left a trail of new friends with vowel-littered names from his too-short short time in Italy, his passion, his energy, his big heart leaving their marks, just as they had in places such as

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