The Pittsburgh Steelers are grieving on Sunday as they deal with the unexpected death of one of their most beloved coaches.
Veteran NFL coach Darryl Drake was only entering his second season with the Steelers when he passed away at age 62 on Sunday morning, but he had already made a deep and last impact on several of the Steelers’ players.
As expected, that included star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, one of Drake’s top proteges, who said he was shocked by the news he received on Sunday.
“[I] was at a loss for words when I heard the news,” Smith-Schuster wrote on Instagram on Sunday afternoon. “Coach Drake was honestly my favorite coach that I’ve ever had in this game, he taught me so much about football and especially about how to go about life. Coach was an amazing role model not just for myself, but for a lot of people who he touched.
“I wish I could see you just one more time. It won’t be the same out there on the field, in meetings, and I’m gonna miss all those long talks we used to have. We all know you want us to be successful and to play to win. Thank you for all the memories and life lessons you’ve taught me. Forever in my heart! Love you man. Rest In Peace Coach Drake.”
Rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who Drake had argued for during the Steelers’ draft meetings, echoed similar thoughts.
“Man I’m lost for words,” Johnson said on Instagram. “MY GUY you taught me so much and I appreciate you for staying on me. You were blessing to me coach and I’ll never forget how you joked around with us in the WR room all the time! Things won’t be the same but we damn sure not stopping here. We got sum to prove for you. Watch over me coach.”
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy said that Drake was in an NFL coaches prayer circle, and former Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey showed how Drake used his faith as a guide for his coaching.
Ima share a lil video of how Coach Drake would start every meeting. I hope these 10sec shows everyone why the football community is hurting right now. RIP COACH WE LOVE YOU. REST EASY! pic.twitter.com/GsrSuskJfT
— Darrius Heyward-Bey (@theDHB85) August 11, 2019
Here’s more from some other current Steelers on the loss of Drake:
“I’ll forever respect and remember you as a Coach and as a Man.. You changed the way I looked at Football and Life.. I’ll never forget the Bible scriptures you would read everyday to the Room.. The day you called me out in the room and said “ Crief read me John 3:16.” I started to read it off my phone and you said “ I’m gone tell your daddy you should know that.” I didnt know you Long but the time I did you Impacted my life on and off the field.. Coach Drake fly high over us and be Our Angel On and Off the field. Love you Coach.. last thing.. we will “Shut Out The Noise” #FlyHighCoachD”
DE CAMERON HEYWARD
Thinking about you Coach Drake. Your passion, love,and laughs always meant a lot. I hope you are at peace. We miss you so much. RIP
— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) August 11, 2019
WR TEVIN JONES
LB T.J. WATT
Coach Drake was always so positive and upbeat, he will be greatly missed by all of us. Our thoughts are with his family during this tragic time.
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) August 11, 2019
QB JOSH DOBBS
Heartbreaking day man…. praying for Coach Drake’s family. Coach touched every player with his smile, jokes, and energy daily. He also pushed us to be great every time we stepped on the field. Rest in Peace Coach 🙌🏽 we will all miss you… pic.twitter.com/AOi9l8FP1c
— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) August 11, 2019
CB STEVEN NELSON
RIP COACH DRAKE 🙏🏾
— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) August 11, 2019
RB COACH EDDIE FAULKNER
RIH Coach Drake! You had a huge impact on players and coaches alike! You were a great mentor for a me as a new coach coming into the National Football League! I learned so much from you in a short amount of time! You will be missed my friend! #flyhigh https://t.co/3ckqSAFUJB
— Eddie Faulkner (@coachfaulk) August 11, 2019