Remembering Ernie Zampese

As New Year’s Day beckons, I’ll highlight some Trojans we lost in 2022.

Former USC halfback Ernie Zampese was better known as a successful NFL offensive coordinator.

Zampese was a left halfback at USC in 1955-56 and made his mark despite playing with star tailbacks Jon Arnett and C.R. Roberts.

In 1956, Zampese was third in rushing (500 yards), second in passing, third in scoring and third in total offense. He was also the punter and averaged 43.9 yards, one of the top averages in the nation that season.

Zampese still holds the record for longest punt in USC history (85 yards).

He was also known for his fun-loving personality, according to an L.A. Times article.

 “Zampese was a work of art, or so the legend goes, a guy who could paint the town Trojan Red at night and be seen whistling at sunrise the next morning, a Daily Racing Form folded under his arm, a soda in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Let’s just say he wasn’t headed for biology class.”

In 1953, he was the CIF Player of the Year at Santa Barbara High School.

Zampese was an assistant for the San Diego Chargers under former USC assistant Don Coryell from 1979-86. He then became the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator from 1987-93.

“(Zampese) used to overrule Joe Gibbs (on play calls) and he was always right,” said former USC and Chargers assistant Dave Levy. “If Joe waited at all to call a play, Ernie would step in and call one.

“Ernie had a good sense of humor and he was smart.”

Zampese became the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys from 1994-97, winning the Super Bowl XXX in 1996. He was the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator from 1998-99.


17 thoughts on “Remembering Ernie Zampese

  1. Zampese got his start in coaching in 1962 when he was hired by John Madden as the backfield coach at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, California. Zampese became the head coach at Hancock in 1964 after Madden left to join Don Coryell’s coaching staff at San Diego State University.

    Having been ruled ineligible for the 1957 season due to NCAA violations, Zampese did not complete his degree at USC. He later recalled that his wife straightened him out and urged him to return to college so that he could pursue his dream of becoming a football coach.

    Zampese enrolled at Cal Poly(SLO) and received a degree in physical education. He recalled, “For the first time, I sat down and really did the work. I was really proud of myself. The first year I ended up with a 3.0 average and, boy, that was big stuff.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. If Zampese was the NE Patriot’s OC during that time, it means he worked under Pete Carroll. Nice way to circle around and connect USC from the past to the USC of the new century.



    Liked by 3 people

  3. NC is holding its’ own down in San Diego at Petco Park

    NC 21
    OR 14

    2nd half just started

    Great come back by KS against AR 3 OTs but a horrible final 2 point attempt by the Jayhawks – could of run it in to force a 4 OT/
    AR 55
    KS 53

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I hated Lane Kiffin as USC coach in 2012 and 2013 and thought he deserved his tarmac embarrassment. But I relent now and wish him every success including if he wants to succeed Nick Saban at Alabama.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol Kiffy can’t win at Ole Oiss .. his team is an undisciplined mess
      He will never see the Bama job they want a real coach not a fraud


    2. that tarmac incident is as low class as I have ever seen…he took over a program with worse restrictions than any other team ever,on bogus ncaa charges, no support from the SC admin either…cowards all incl the AD…he produced winning years and a 10-2 season,but the limitations did catch up with him.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ‘Speaking of Motivation’ you think you better be Motivated to tackle ‘Earnest’ Ernie running right at you as if an unchained Spanish bull, yeah, I’d say you better be prepared to be really into the game otherwise you get run over as if hit by a truck

    Brave men are these lads, you won’t see me out there

    Liked by 1 person

  6. watched him play with Arnett, & CR Roberts was the fullback…they all played under the PCC conf limitation rules, 5 games…he was pretty good, but no Jon Arnett.


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