Former Stanford football coach Dennis Green passed away at 67 on Thursday, July 21 of a heart attack, his family said in a statement.
An outpouring of support has come out from the football community for the family of the beloved coach.
“I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of my Stanford football coach & NFL coach Denny Green,” current U.S. Senator Cory Booker, one of Green’s former players, tweetedFriday. “My condolences are with all his loved ones.
His family issued a statement saying that he “fought hard” until the end. In Green’s memory, the family requests donations be made to the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego.
By all regards a selfless man, Green broke barriers as a coach.
We lost a good man today. I loved playing for Denny Green at Stanford. My thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace Coach.
— Ed McCaffrey (@87ed) July 22, 2016
No African-American had been the head coach of a Big Ten football team until Green took over at Northwestern in 1981. When he signed on to Stanford’s head coaching job in 1989, he also became the first black head coach in Pac-10 history.
He was handed a program that had just one winning season in its last eight years. By the end of his final season, 1991, Stanford was back to bowling, capping an 8-3 season with an appearance in the Aloha Bowl. Current Stanford head coach David Shaw, who played under Green as a receiver, believes Green started to create the brand of “intellectual brutality” that the program is known for today.
“At Stanford, Coach Green created an environment of toughness, confidence and competitiveness that I was blessed to be a part of as a student-athlete,” Shaw told The Mercury News. “Though our staff, Coach Willingham’s and Coach [Jim] Harbaugh’s, have all had success, Coach Green was the first to win at Stanford with the combination of a physical running game, a West Coast passing attack and an aggressive defense.”
NFL teams took note as the Minnesota Vikings signed Green to his first NFL head coaching job in 1992. He had previously coached in the NFL, earning stints on 49ers’ coach Bill Walsh’s coaching staff in the ’70s and ’80s, but was called back to the college game.
He stuck with the Vikings, staying at the helm from 1992 to 2001. He had just one losing season in those years, combining to go 97-62. After trying his hand as a television analyst, he came back to coach the Arizona Cardinals from 2004 to 2006 before Ken Wisenhunt took over.
“Coach Green will rightly be remembered as a true innovator, leader and pioneer among football coaches,” Cardinals president Michael Bigwill said. “We express our deepest sympathy to his family and his many friends.”
Green leaves behind his wife Marie and four children: Patti, Jeremy, Zachary and Vanessa.
Contact Ben Leonard at bentleonard18 ‘at’ gmail.com.