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Ernie Zampese, Who Set USC's Longest Punt Record And Then Was A Noted NFL Offensive Coordinator, Dies

Aug 29, 2022

LOS ANGELES--Ernie Zampese, a halfback at USC in the mid-1950s who still owns the school's record for longest punt and who then became a noted NFL offensive coordinator, died today (Aug. 29).  He was 86.

Zampese, at just 5-9 and 166 pounds, lettered at USC in 1955 and 1956.  As a junior in 1956, he led USC in interceptions (6), punting (41.2) and punt returns (9.1) as the Trojans went 8-2, ending with victories over UCLA and Notre Dame.  His 85-yard punt at Wisconsin in 1956 is a still-standing school record for distance.  Later that season, he ran for 125 yards on 20 carries, including a 38-yard touchdown late in the game, in the 28-20 Notre Dame victory.

He came to USC from Santa Barbara (Calif.) High, where he was the CIF Player of the Year.

He began his coaching career as an assistant at Allan Hancock Junior College for two seasons (1962-63) under John Madden, then became the head coach there in 1964 and 1965.

He then was an assistant at Cal Poly (1966) and San Diego State (1967-75) before moving to the NFL ranks.  He worked under Don Coryell at San Diego State.

He first was an assistant with the San Diego Chargers in 1976, then a scout for the New York Jets in 1977 and 1978 before returning to the Chargers as an assistant for 8 years (1979-86), including as offensive coordinator the final 2 seasons.  In his second stint with the Chargers, he reunited with Coryell and helped developed the potent "Air Coryell" offense.

Zampese then became the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams (1987-93), Dallas Cowboys (1994-97) and New England Patriots (1998-99).  The 1995 Cowboys were the Super Bowl XXX champion.  At the Rams, he coached under former USC head coach John Robinson.  He coached Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Fouts (Chargers) and Troy Aikman (Cowboys).

He finished his career as an offensive consultant with the Cowboys (2000-01), Rams (2002) and Washington Redskins (2004).

His son, Ken Zampese, was a graduate assistant coach at USC in 1990 and 1991 and is now the quarterbacks coach with the Washington Commanders (he also had NFL stops with the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns).