Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul, 54, dies

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul, who was rushed to the hospital Tuesday morning after experiencing a medical emergency, has died, the team announced Wednesday. He was 54.

Surrounded by family, Paul died Wednesday evening at Plano Presbyterian Hospital.

The cause of death was not announced.

"The loss of a family member is a tragedy, and Markus Paul was a loved and valued member of our family," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement. "He was a pleasant and calming influence in our strength room and throughout The Star.

"His passion for his work and his enthusiasm for life earned him great respect and admiration from all our players and the entire organization. We offer our love and support to his family in this very difficult time. Our hearts are broken for his family and all of the individuals whose lives he touched and made better."

The Cowboys recognized and remembered Paul before their Thanksgiving Day matchup against Washington at AT&T Stadium. They wore an "MP" decal in Paul's memory, and had a moment of silence before the game. Some coaches are wearing the decals on their hats or shirts.

Paul was treated by Cowboys medical personnel and transported to a hospital by ambulance shortly before 7:30 a.m. CT Tuesday. Coach Mike McCarthy canceled practice Tuesday, and Wednesday's session ran roughly 75 minutes, which was considered to be close to normal, given the circumstances.

Paul joined the Cowboys in 2018 as an assistant to Mike Woicik and was named the strength and conditioning coordinator upon McCarthy's arrival as coach.

"We extend our love, strength and support to Markus' family during this most challenging of times and ask that their privacy be respected moving forward," McCarthy said in a statement. "Markus Paul was a leader in this building. He earned the players' respect and attention because he cared so much and was a naturally gifted communicator -- both on the personal and professional levels. He handled every situation, sometimes with a smile and a pat on the back and sometimes with tough love.

"He had innate toughness in a job that requires that quality, and he was admired throughout the NFL by his peers and the players he coached. It was a privilege to work with him as a coach and laugh with him as a friend. Markus did everything the right way."

Several Cowboys players took to Twitter to pay tribute to Paul, including linebacker Jaylon Smith and cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

Paul played five years in the NFL as a defensive back with the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, from 1989 to 1993, after four seasons at Syracuse, where he was a two-time All-American.

Washington coach Ron Rivera and Paul were teammates with the Bears from 1989 to 1992, before the end of Rivera's playing career.

"The passing of Markus Paul is a true loss to the NFL community and anyone who had the privilege of knowing him," Rivera said. "Markus was a tremendous teammate during my time with the Chicago Bears and a good friend to me over the years. He was just a great man and will be missed by many.''

Paul entered the coaching ranks in 1998 with the New Orleans Saints and then spent five seasons with the New England Patriots' strength staff under Woicik from 2000 to 2004. In 2005 and 2006, Paul was the director of physical development and head strength and conditioning coach for the New York Jets.

He spent 11 seasons with the New York Giants as an assistant strength coach before joining the Cowboys.

The Jets expressed condolences on their Twitter account Wednesday, describing Paul as "a kind man who made a lasting impact on those fortunate to have crossed his path."

The Giants also tweeted about Paul, calling him "a beloved member of our organization for several years" and saying, "He will be greatly missed."

The Saints said in their statement, "While Markus' time in New Orleans was relatively brief nearly two decades ago, he left a lasting legacy as a family first, hardworking individual that cared deeply for the players and the rich history of the NFL."

In 2012, the Cowboys experienced the loss of a player one day before playing the Cincinnati Bengals, when practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a car crash in which teammate Josh Brent was the driver. The Cowboys had Brown's jersey displayed on their bench and won the game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.