Former New York Jets Iron-Man & Albany Coach Died Saturday
Most of the time, when reporting these stories, we don't really know the person we are writing about. This time I do. Former 16-year NFL veteran and UAlbany assistant football coach, Jim Sweeney unexpectedly passed away on Saturday. The news rocked the New York Jets organization, as well as Sweeney's friends and family at the University at Albany.
I was fortunate enough to have watched most of Jim Sweeney's home games as a New York Jets offensive lineman, in person, in the 1980's and '90's. Then was more than graced to have worked with Sweeney at the University at Albany starting in 2014. For the last 8 years, he has been a friend to me and many others on our campus. I will include some of Jim Sweeney's NFL accolades below. However, no matter how good of a football player or coach that he was, Jim was a better person. Sweeney was a gentle giant. His gravely voice and giant powerful paws for hands, were attached to a heart bigger than life. Jim's daughter, Aislinn is the UAlbany women's lacrosse goalie. His children are just an extension of that heart. Sweeney truly had a gift for caring.
Jim Sweeney was not surprisingly a Jets fan favorite. He was the poster-boy for the lunch-pail work crew. Sweeney played nearly every game and played hard every play. According to jets.com, Jim played in 158 consecutive games during an 11-year stretch with the Jets. The western Pennsylvania native played mostly at center. Former All Pro teammate Marty Lyons remembered Jim on Sunday. "Jim was a typical Pittsburgh guy. He was tough. 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."
Jim started every game for Seattle in 1995 and wrapped up his 16-year career by playing four seasons with his hometown Steelers. He played in 228 games, including 176 starts. Sweeney coached the offensive lineman at Duquesne University and at UAlbany until 2020. Jim Sweeney is survived by his wife Julie and their five children: Shannon, Liam, Aislinn, Kilian and Teagan. Our hearts go out to Jim's family. I am a way better person having known Jim Sweeney. He will be missed is an understatement. Rest In Peace, my friend.