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Joe Walton: Former Jets coach, Robert Morris football pioneer, dies at 85

Joe Walton: Former Jets coach, Robert Morris football pioneer, dies at 85
Joe Walton, who died Sunday, served as the first football coach in the history of Robert Morris University and spent nearly three decades as an NFL assistant, coordinator and head coach. Photo by Robert Morris University Athletics

Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Joe Walton, a former New York Jets coach who also built the football program at Robert Morris University, died over the weekend. He was 85.

Robert Morris said Walton died Sunday. No cause of death was given.

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Walton, the son of former Washington Football Team guard Frank Walton, was born in 1934 in Beaver Falls, Pa. He attended Beaver Falls High School and went on to star as a tight end at the University of Pittsburgh.

Walton entered the NFL as a player when he was picked by the Washington Football Team in the second round of the 1957 NFL Draft. He played for Washington through 1960 and joined the New York Giants in 1961.

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Walton spent his last season with the Giants as a player in 1964 and joined the team as a scout the next season. He later served as a wide receivers coach. Walton joined Washington's staff in 1974 to serve as running backs coach.

He was Washington's offensive coordinator from 1978 through 1980, where he worked with former All-Pro quarterback Joe Theismann.

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"Coach Joe Walton passed [Sunday]," Theismann tweeted Sunday. "He was my coach, and my friend. He taught me how to play quarterback at the pro level.

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"He touched so many lives whether it was in pro ball or at the college level. We all have a part of Joe with us. Rest In peace, Pops."

Walton was offensive coordinator for the Jets in 1981 and 1982. He was promoted to Jets coach in 1983, a role he held through 1989. Walton was the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator in 1990 and 1991.

He was then tasked with building the Robert Morris football program when he was hired as the school's first coach in 1993. He held that role through 2013. Walton retired with 114 collegiate victories, the most in the history of the Northwest Conference.

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He led the Colonials to five conference championships. He was a four-time NEC Coach of the Year award winner.

"The first time I heard former student-athletes talk about Coach Walton, not one mentioned how good a football player he made them," Robert Morris coach Bernard Clark Jr. said in a news release.

"They all spoke about the men he helped them become. That is the sign of a great teacher. We're sorry to learn of his passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

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Walton posted a 53-57-1 record in his seven seasons with the Jets. He led the team to the playoffs twice, posting a 1-2 record in the postseason.

"Joe Walton poured his heart into this franchise for nine seasons, joining us as offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach," the Jets said in a statement.

"Joe fielded some of the franchise's most productive offenses and helped the team to four playoff appearances during his tenure. He was a good man who cared for his players and loved the game of football."

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Betty White attends the media preview for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's Beastly Ball fundraiser at the Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles on June 11, 2015. The actress died December 31. She was 99 years old. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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