Emotional Dallas Cowboys remember strength coach Markus Paul, who died a year ago: 'He's part of the building blocks of our culture'

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy took time to celebrate the life of former strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul on Tuesday as the one-year anniversary of Paul's death approaches.

"The first thing when you talk about Markus Paul, you talk about his faith, you talk about his family and you talk about his fatherly presence that he had to the players," McCarthy said. "I think that's really a big part of our message just when you want to celebrate somebody and he's part of the building blocks of our culture ... It was more about the person and he exemplified that to the highest level so and we just want to make sure our team, particularly our locker room, has an understanding that he's part of the foundation of what we've got going on here."

Paul collapsed in his weight room office at The Star and was rushed to a local hospital two days before the Cowboys played the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving. He was pronounced dead on Nov. 25, 2020. He was 54.

In 2020, Paul was promoted to strength and conditioning coordinator after serving as an assistant on Mike Woicik's staff since 2018. He spent 23 years as a strength coach for the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, New York Giants and Cowboys after his playing career ended. He earned three Super Bowl rings (three with the Patriots, two with the Giants).

Running back Ezekiel Elliott said the meeting was emotional as McCarthy and strength and conditioning coordinator Harold Nash, who was one of Paul's assistants last year, addressed the team.

"[For] the guys that weren't able to be around Coach Markus, just shed light on the type of man -- not only was he a great coach but the type of man, father, brother, person he was," Elliott said. "And he's someone we definitely miss, someone we think about every day, and definitely miss Coach Markus."

Cornerback Anthony Brown said Paul was more than just a football coach.

"His time was more just teaching me how to be a father, teaching me how to do things the right way, be respectful and how to go to work every day and do right," Brown said. "I'll never forget him. I always keep him in my prayers. I always keep him in the back of my head coming out here. I always think about him all the time."

Players said Nash and assistants Kendall Smith and Cedric Smith try to keep Paul's legacy alive. They run certain stretches the way Paul did before practice, as well as adopt the same attitude in the weight room.

"When we come in there, just being cheery having a smile on your face, welcoming somebody into the church because Markus always said stuff like that because he was very religious as well," wide receiver Michael Gallup said. "But he always called his weight room his sanctuary. Just good times, always keeping it upbeat, but that's what Markus brought to the table and that's what they're trying to keep here."