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Wednesday 19 June, 2024
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Who was Marvin Powell, Jim Sweeney? How did he Die?

BY Salman Ahmed Oct 02, 2022. 06:09 pm UPDATED: Oct 02, 2022. 06:10 pm

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Jim Sweeney, one of the most durable offensive linemen ever to line up for the New York Jets, died Saturday at the age of 60.

Sweeney started 158 straight games for the Green & White, going from December 9, 1984, through Christmas Eve, ten years later.

“I wanted to play in as many games as possible and I understood that there aren’t a whole bunch of opportunities,” he told Jim Gehman in a story that appeared on newyorkjets.com in 2018. “I just loved to play the game. It was what I was meant to do. So, if it was what I was meant to do, I didn’t want to waste a little bit of God’s talent because I don’t want to show up at the pearly gates and have him say to me, ‘Hey, you wasted my talents.’ I wanted to make sure I utilized every gift he gave me. I figured play as long as you can, play as hard as you can, and play as often as you can.”

“Jim was a typical Pittsburgh guy. He was tough,” said Marty Lyons, the Jets’ radio analyst who was Sweeney’s teammate from 1984-89. “He was tough to practice against every day. You could count on him every single Sunday. He had a different personality as soon as he crossed over the lines, though. Hard-nosed, tough-football player, a loving caring friend off the field.”

Longtime Jets public relations director Frank Ramos expressed similar sentiments.

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“Jim has to be one of the toughest players in Jets history,” Ramos said. “He was really a good technical player, so tough, and he was a great leader. And he was a fun guy to be around, so well-liked by his teammates.”

Sweeney was selected by the Jets in the second round (at No. 37 overall) out of Pitt in 1984. As a rookie, he started two games at left guard before taking over and starting 16 games there. In 1986–1987, he switched to left tackle outside. From 1988 to 1994, the versatile professional took over as the team’s primary centre.

“That was my natural position,” he said of center. “All through grade school, high school and most of college, I was a center. I was just able to play other positions. I have to give a lot of credit to my father who said, ‘The more you can do, the longer you’ll stick around. When I was at Pitt, I played different positions. I had a pretty good coach, Joe Moore, who wanted players to play more than one position. He would rotate me in at guard, so that’s where I first got my playing experience.

“We really didn’t have a set position. It was always, what can you do? What could you do for the team? I learned that early, about team concept, that you’re not just a positional player. You’re an offensive lineman.”

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Sweeney spent his final four years of his 16-year NFL career with the Steelers after moving to Seattle in 1995. (1996-99). The legendary lineman coached collegiately at Duquesne (2000-02) and Albany after playing all five OL positions and tight end for his hometown Pitt Panthers in college (2014-21, assistant head coach in 2020-21). Additionally, he served as a coach at two high schools in the Pittsburgh suburbs: South Fayette and Peters Township (2003-06) (2007-10)..

“I had a lot of great coaches and each one had a little different personality on how they wanted you to understand what they were talking about. And humor was a big part of that,” Sweeney said. “I loved them all, they all taught me lessons. I don’t necessarily coach like they did. I take little bits and pieces of what they did, put them together and then put my own spin on it. I mean, you’re not going to reinvent the game, but there are ways to get your point across differently.

Sweeney passed away just hours before the Jets and Steelers, the teams he started his NFL career with and finished it with, were set to face off in his hometown. Shannon, Liam, Aislinn, Kilian, and Teagan, his wife Julie, and their five children, survive him.

Lyons, who was in Pittsburgh for the Jets vs. Steelers game, remarked on how tough it was to learn of the deaths of Sweeney and Jets Pro Bowl tackle Marvin Powell on the same night and within 15 minutes of one another.

“I want (my players) to love the game because it’s a hard enough sport when you love it to do it because it is a tough sport. The physicality is a big factor and there are no dumb guys playing football. I coach them like they’re in the NFL. I make sure they know more than one position. They know mentally and physically how to do different positions, and that’s a lot for young men.”

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“It’s shocking,” Lyons said. “It’s just sad to lose two teammates, two people who were quality individuals. It makes you realize how fragile life is. One day you’re here and the next day you’re gone.”

But Sweeney left his mark on the Jets, the New York and Pittsburgh areas, and the NFL with his too-short stay.

“Guys like Marty Lyons and Joe Klecko took Sweeney under their wing,” said Wesley Walker, the great Jets wideout and, like Lyons, a Ring of Honor member. “Quiet guy, just did his job. Always respectful, always nice. Lunchpail player, durable, followed directions. Did his job.”

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