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Former WKU receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers coach and Louisville native Darryl Drake passes away at age 62

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, a former Western Kentucky University football player and coach, passed away Sunday morning at age 62 in Latrobe, Pa.

The Steelers did not disclose a cause of death and canceled their training camp practices on Sunday and Monday.

“We are all saddened to learn of the passing of Darryl Drake,” said Todd Stewart, WKU’s director of athletics. “He had a tremendous impact on those who he coached and those who were fortunate to call him a teammate. WKU football was better because of our association with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Originally from Louisville, Darryl Drake came to WKU in 1975 from Flaget High School to play for head coach Jimmy Feix and lettered in three seasons as a Hilltopper. (WKU photo)

Originally from Louisville, Drake came to WKU in 1975 from Flaget High School to play for head coach Jimmy Feix and lettered in three seasons as a Hilltopper. As a freshman, Drake saw time on the 1975 WKU team that went 11-2, finished as co-Ohio Valley Conference champions, won the Grantland Rice Bowl and finished as the NCAA Division II runner-up.

In 1978, Drake ranked second on the team with 31 catches for 380 yards and three receiving touchdowns. He also rushed three times for 99 yards and one score. That season, the Hilltoppers went 8-2, including 6-0 in OVC play to win the league championship.

Following his playing career at WKU, Drake spent part of the 1979 season with the Washington Redskins, was a member of the Ottawa Roughriders in 1981 and joined the Cincinnati Bengals for part of the 1983 campaign.

Feix offered Drake a graduate assistantship coaching position in 1983 that began his storied, 36-year career on the sidelines. He served as a graduate assistant coach for the Hilltoppers from 1983-84, coached wide receivers from 1985-89, defensive backs in 1990, then wide receivers and quarterbacks in 1991.

From 1992-2003, Drake made stops at Georgia, Baylor and Texas in the collegiate coaching ranks before teaming up with longtime friend Lovie Smith with the Chicago Bears. He coached wide receivers for the Bears from 2004-12, which included a Super Bowl XLI appearance in 2007. Drake was also wide receivers coach for the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-17 and had been working in the same position for the Steelers since 2018.

“He was an amazing husband, father and grandfather, and it is difficult to put into words the grief our entire team is going through right now,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “Darryl loved the game of football and every player he ever coached. We will use our faith to guide us and help his family throughout the difficult time.”

During the course of his 15-season NFL coaching career, Drake coached some of the best wide receivers in the game, such as Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and Antonio Brown.

From Western Kentucky University and staff reports

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