BYU assistant Mahe enduring despite tragic loss of daughter

Ari Davis
Running backs coach Reno Mahe receives a lei after the Utah State game on Nov. 26. Mahe will wear pink shoes at the Poinsettia Bowl in remembrance of his late daughter Elsie. (Ari Davis)

Reno Mahe will wear a pair of pink shoes at the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21. That was his daughter’s favorite color.

The BYU running backs coach buried 3-year-old Elsie on Saturday.

“As far as honoring her, it’s one of those things as a dad, you just try to live a good a life and honor her in that way,” Mahe said. “I’ve got a bunch of other little rug-rats running around in my house. Hug them a little more and spend a little more time with them.”

Mahe smiled, cracked a few jokes and seemed at ease Monday as he and his family deal with the aftermath of the accident that took his daughter’s life. Elsie was found tangled in a mini blind with cords wrapped around her neck on Nov. 22. She died a week later.

Reno, his wife Sunny and seven remaining children have been showered with love from the BYU community, the University of Utah community and well-wishers from around the country. Hundreds attended a public service in Salt Lake City on Friday.

“For the most part, we’ve been consoling a lot of our friends and family more so than being consoled,” Mahe said. “But it’ll be good. It’ll be all right.”

The first-year BYU football staff has grown incredibly close with each other and the team. Sunny had been making cookies for the running backs group on Wednesdays — dubbed Cookie Wednesday — before the accident happened. The players upheld the tradition by bringing cookies to the hospital on the Wednesday after the accident.

Sunny Mahe holds her daughter Elsie. The Mahe's donated Elsie's organs after her tragic death. (Facebook screenshot)
Sunny Mahe holds her daughter Elsie. The Mahe’s donated Elsie’s organs after her tragic death. (Facebook screenshot)

“Any time you have a situation like that, it does kind of bring people closer,” Mahe said. “For the most part, we have a pretty close-knit group here, regardless. Any closer just would be a little weird. Everyone has each other’s back. It definitely had to touch another part of the players’ soul or heart or whatever. They’ve been awesome.”

Receiver Mitchell Juergens added, “Very hard to see them go through this, but at the same time, just eye-opening how well their perspective on this whole process has been. They’re very positive people and they understand the Lord’s will. I think it brings us comfort knowing that he’s OK.”

Mahe credits his family’s faith for their ability to navigate this difficult time. Sunny has been active on social media, posting updates on Elsie’s condition and expressing gratitude for her peaceful passing. Reno said he appreciated having football as an escape at times.

“I do feel for my wife on that, she doesn’t get to escape like I do,” Mahe said. “We’ll work through that. The Polynesian culture, there’s 100 people at the house. It was nice to get away for a little bit.”

Both BYU and Utah, at the Foster Farms Bowl on Dec. 28, are likely do something in honor of the Mahe family.

There are several connections between the staffs at BYU and Utah even though the universities are longtime rivals. BYU coach Kalani Sitake played for and graduated from BYU, but coached 10 years at Utah. Utes coach Kyle Whittingham played for and graduated from BYU and hired Sitake as defensive coordinator at Utah. Mahe and Utah co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick played together and he’s close with Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. Mahe’s brother graduated from Utah.

Mahe’s voice never wavered while discussing his daughter Monday. He flashed his normal wide smile and didn’t hesitate to joke a bit. Mahe seemed at peace.

“I don’t believe in coincidence,” he said. “The Lord has a plan for all of us and I think that was just part of our plan.”

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