By Mark Rosen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano died Sunday morning. He was 56 years old.

The team announced his death, saying it was unexpected.

“I am at a loss for words with Tony’s sudden passing,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “Tony loved the game of football and his players.”

Sparano is survived by his wife, Jeanette, two sons, a daughter, and four grandchildren.

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family,” said Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, in a statement.

The Wilfs also said that Sparano, who joined the Vikings’ offensive line staff in 2016, will be “deeply missed” by the team.

Vikings players Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph mourned Sparano’s death on Twitter.

“Really tough to see this,” wrote Thielen, a receiver. “So much respect for this guy, great coach and great person!”

Below is the team’s full statement:

With deep regret the Minnesota Vikings announce that Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano unexpectedly passed away early this morning.

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony. Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony’s presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony’s family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts.” – Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf

Sparano began his NFL coaching career in 1999 with stints as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Tony served as the Vikings offensive line coach since 2016. Tony played collegiately at the University of New Haven where he was a four-year letterman. Sparano was named New Haven’s head coach in 1994 and held the position for five seasons.

Tony is survived by his wife, Jeanette, his two sons; Tony and Andrew, his daughter, Ryan Leigh, and four grandchildren. Sparano was born October 7, 1961. He was 56 years old.

The Sparano family requests privacy at this time. The Vikings will provide further updates when appropriate.

Other Minnesota sports franchises also went to social media to offer their prayers and condolences on Sparano’s death.

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