JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Nearly a decade later, Joe DeCamillis chuckles at the memory of wearing a neck brace and screaming into a bullhorn at practice.
“It’s called stupidity,” he said.
With Jacksonville playing at Dallas on Sunday, the veteran special teams coordinator reflected on his time with the Cowboys. It was one of Joe DeCamillis’ eight coaching stops — and most painful — during a 30-year NFL career.
DeCamillis was inside Dallas’ 86-foot-tall practice facility that collapsed during a thunderstorm in May 2009. About 70 people were inside. Twelve were injured.
Scouting assistant Rich Behm was paralyzed from the waist down when his spine was severed. DeCamillis broke his neck but returned to work a little more than a week later wearing a neck brace. He still has physical issues, including occasional numbness in his hands, and gets a little nervous at the sound of lightning and thunder.
“Still feel the effects from it,” he said. “I’m going to deal with it every day of my life. It’s just part of my life and hopefully I came out of it a better person. Sometimes you have adversity that happens and hopefully you find a way to deal with it.”
DeCamillis got a .5 million settlement, which included cash and benefits, following the accident from companies responsible for building the tent-like structure.
DeCamillis stayed three more years in Dallas after the accident, then spent two seasons in Chicago and two in Denver before returning to Jacksonville for a second stint in 2017. He won the Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2016.
“What are you going to do? Feel sorry for yourself? Just keep going,” DeCamillis said. “Obviously, I was told at that time I might not be able to coach, and eight years later, I’m still coaching. It turned out great.”
He hasn’t been back to Dallas since he left following the 2012 season. He doesn’t expect the trip to be anything special, either.
“As many places as I’ve been right now, you can’t get nostalgic of too many places that’s for sure,” he said. “I just want to get in, get out and hopefully get a win. … There’s a lot of good people at that place. I’m looking forward to going back and seeing them.”