Joe Walton, who played three seasons with the Giants in the early 1960s before a long coaching career in the NFL and college ranks, died Sunday. He was 85 years old.
A native of Beaver Falls, Pa., Walton was a two-time All-American at the University of Pittsburgh as a tight end. He was selected in the second round of the 1957 NFL Draft by Washington, where he played four seasons before joining the New York Giants in 1961.
The Giants advanced to the NFL Championship Game all three seasons (1961-1963) that Walton played for the organization. He became a frequent target of Y.A. Tittle and famously caught three of the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback's team-record seven touchdowns in a 1962 game against Washington. Walton's three touchdowns stood as franchise tight end record for more than 50 years until it was tied by Larry Donnell in 2014.
Joe Walton played three seasons with the Giants in the early 1960s before a long coaching career in the NFL and college ranks.
Upon retirement, Walton spent four years as a scout for the Giants before becoming the team's wide receivers coach. It kicked off a long coaching career, which included seven years as head coach of the New York Jets (1983-1989). His teams twice won at least 10 games and advanced to the postseason in 1985 and 1986. After his tenure with the Jets ended, he spent two seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator and then built the Robert Morris University football program from the ground up.
Hired as the first head coach in RMU football history on July 27, 1993, he started from scratch, from hiring assistant coaches to purchasing equipment to recruiting student-athletes for the inaugural season in 1994, according to the Colonials' athletic website. During his tenure from 1994 to 2013, Walton's teams won outright NEC championships three times (1997, 1999, 2000) while sharing three others (1996, 1998, 2010). His imprint on the campus was cemented with the building of Joe Walton Stadium, where the Colonials have played their home games since 2005.
"The first time I heard former student-athletes talk about Coach Walton, not one mentioned how good a football player he made them," RMU head coach Bernard Clark, Jr. said in a statement. "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."
"On behalf of the Pitt football program, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and many loved ones of Coach Joe Walton," Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. "Coach Walton embodied the type of excellence we want our student-athletes to strive for every day. At Pitt, he was not only an All-American on the field but also an Academic All-American in the classroom. As a coach, he was a true teacher of the game, both in the NFL and at Robert Morris. He leaves an unforgettable legacy as a player, coach and man."