More than 1,000 people filed into the grand ballroom at the Utah Valley Convention Center to honor late BYU football head coach LaVell Edwards. Edwards passed away on Dec. 29, 2016 at the age of 86.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Edwards might be the most recognizable BYU figure in the history of the university.
“I think maybe only the university’s namesake, good ol’ brother Brigham himself, may be the only better known link in the nation to this university than is the name LaVell Edwards,” Holland said. “Now, that is not bad for a boy raised right here in Utah County who played his college days down in the trenches were there was blood and bend fingers and broken noses, and who, for the most part of his coaching career, forget to tell his face how happy he was.”
The audience consisted of family, friends, former players and fans. While not everyone in attendance had personally met the legendary coach, they were all influenced by him.
Keala Sikahema, wife of former BYU football player Vai Sikahema, said Edwards was much more than a coach. Along with his wife Patti, Edwards made it a point to reach out to the wives and children of the men he coached.
“I felt every part of being in the football family with LaVell,” Sikahema said.
Sikahema’s oldest son Landon was born during his father’s last season at BYU, but even he has felt the effects of Edwards’ legacy.
“I think he was an example of priorities,” Landon said. “Church and family first. He encouraged my dad to do the same.”
Landon went on to say the way Edwards influenced the lives of his parents affected the way they raised him, and the way that he wants to raise his own family someday.
“It’s an incredible legacy,” Keala added.
Edwards’ bishop Brian Santiago conducted the service, while Elder Holland of presided.
“(LaVell’s) incredible influence for good will forever be engraved on our hearts,” Santiago said.
Both of Edwards’ sons, Jimmy and John, spoke during the service, as did Elder Holland. Former BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco – who led the 1984 team to the National Championship – spoke on behalf of the BYU football players coached by Edwards.
Each of the speakers referenced Edwards astounding coaching career, but the greater emphasis was Edwards’ discipleship and values.
Joe Richardson is a neighbor of the Edwards family and was an usher at the memorial. Richardson said Edwards was a perfect example to him.
“He was just really humble,” Richardson said. “He was down to earth, caring – the perfect father figure.”
Edwards is survived by his wife Patti, his three children and their spouses, 14 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. Edwards always showed interest in charitable work, so in lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the Boys and Girls Club.
One thing was made clear at the service. Despite all of Edwards’ on-field accomplishments – which include a National Championship, 257 victories and an induction into the College Football Hall of Fame – he will be remembered for the man he was off the field. A respectful and loving man who was steadfast in his faith and a pillar to those around him.
“Our kids will be talking about LaVell Edwards for a long time,” Bosco said, “He was a true disciple of Jesus Christ.”