The memory feels like yesterday.
It was November 18, 2000, LaVell Edward’s final home game as BYU’s long-time
football coach. The Cougars defeated New Mexico 37-13.
But I remember little of the game itself.
Most memorable to me was the privilege of standing just feet from the football legend in a pregame ceremony. Gordon B. Hinckley, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, made the historic announcement: Cougar Stadium would be re-named “LaVell Edwards Stadium.”
LaVell’s legs nearly buckled as the crowd erupted. Patti, his beautiful wife,
put her hands to her face. Like the more than 60,000 fans, the Edwards were thrilled and I would guess somewhat surprised.
I was honored to get a photo with LaVell on the sideline after the game. That picture sits in my home to this day.
I also suspect LaVell was somewhat uncomfortable with the stadium name change. He was always one to pass praise and credit to others. He was the epitome of genuine kindness. He became one of the great sports icons in Utah, yet spoke as politely to a stranger as he did to the powerful. He was a two-time National Football Coach of the year and member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He took BYU’s football program from mediocre to national prominence when his Cougars won their first NCAA championship in 1984. The honors and awards are numerous, yet he was as humble a man as one could ever meet.
So today’s news that he died at the age of 86 has so many who knew him in mourning, including me.
I was one of the first female sportscasters in Utah in the early 1990s when I first met LaVell. He treated me like a veteran, even when I was young and surrounded by journalists who had much more experience. He frequently asked about my family. Though he never knew this, he was instrumental in my early career and I will always be grateful to him for that.
Unlike today, when many coaches have little time to give to the media, LaVell always seemed willing to give a good sound bite. He was never in a hurry. He was old school. I miss that.
LaVell loved football, but the game did not define him. It was the important life lessons he taught to so many young men, and to a young female sportscaster. Lessons that were much bigger than football will ever be. Lessons like the importance of family and faith.
Today on BYU TV’s Sports Nation, former BYU quarterback Steve Young struggled with his emotions as he simply said, “I love him.” These are words so many will be uttering today and in years to come.
Current BYU football coach Kalani Sitake told the Daily Herald: “LaVell not only changed the program, but he changed a lot of lives.”
Mine was one of them.
Thank you, LaVell.