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PROVO — LaVell Edwards was more than a BYU football coach, according to many who spent time with the legendary figure.
Aside from nearly doubling the program’s win total before finishing with a 257-101-3 record in his 29-year tenure at BYU, Edwards was known for bringing the pass-heavy offense to modern college football. He died Thursday morning at the age of 86.
A 2004 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame and 1984 national champion, Edwards was also a family man and father of three children, humanitarian and missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and devoted member of his faith.
So it’s no surprise when public figures from all walks of life — former players and coaching colleagues, as well as senators and politicians — began remembering him.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, who played for Edwards at BYU from 1978-82, expressed love and admiration for his former coach.
“I love LaVell Edwards. He came into my life, and the life of many others, at just the right time,” Holmoe said in a statement. “I had the influence of a great coach, a wonderful person, a disciple of Christ, a loyal family man and a true friend, from the day I met him until the day he passed away.
“LaVell had a pure heart. He was the dream coach of every parent. His example will forever be with me and I will strive to live a life of love as he always did.”Current BYU head coach Kalani Sitake played fullback for Edwards, and started in the Cougars’ final home game of the legend’s tenure in 2000 — when it was announced that Cougar Stadium would be renamed LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“I was saddened to hear that LaVell passed away this morning,” Sitake said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with Patti and the entire family. As I have expressed many times, LaVell had a tremendous impact on me, not only as a player and as a coach but even more importantly as a person. That is LaVell. He had an impact on so many lives, and not just as a coach but as a person. So many people — players, coaches, fans, the entire BYU family, coaching colleagues and opponents — will tell you they are a better person because of him, and I’m definitely one of them. We all love LaVell and appreciate the amazing legacy he leaves for each of us.”
Another former BYU player, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, was heartbroken at the passing of his former coach. Whittingham played linebacker at BYU from 1978-81.
“It was heartbreaking to hear the news of coach Edwards’ passing," Whittingham said in a statement. "He was a close friend of our family and we will all miss him. I have many fond memories of coach Edwards and was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play under his tutelage as well as coach under him as a graduate assistant. He made such a positive impact on so many lives and to me that is what his legacy is all about and what’s most important.”
Current BYU president Kevin Worthen also expressed his love for Edwards.Tributes also focused on the love Edwards had for his wife Patti, such as the one by former BYU offensive lineman Trevor Matich.
You can tell a lot about a man by the quality of the woman who loves him. Patti is one of the most extraordinary women I've ever known.— Trevor Matich (@TMatich) December 29, 2016
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also expressed sadness at Edwards' passing.
"Jeanette and I were saddened to learn of Coach LaVell Edwards’ passing this morning," he said in a statement. "The Edwards’ have been good friends to my family for many years. Of course, LaVell will be remembered and revered as one of the great coaches of all time for the way he transformed BYU Football into a national powerhouse. But just as important is how he worked to transform young men into successful and better human beings. He truly cared about his players both on and off the field.
"A big part of what made him such a legend was his example of excellence in sportsmanship — he always showed the utmost respect for his opponents. LaVell was not just a great coach, but more importantly, LaVell Edwards was a good man and a decent human being. He and his wife Patti have always been great examples to me about how to conduct one’s life.
"LaVell was both a legend, and a friend. Our prayers are with Patti and entire Edwards family at this time. LaVell, you will be dearly missed."
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, attended the Cougars’ White House visit with President Ronald Reagan following the 1984 national championship.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, LaVell Edwards,” Sen. Hatch said in a statement. “Coach Edwards was a gentle giant of the gridiron—a humble yet confident leader who guided the BYU football program through decades of unprecedented success. He was a champion both on and off the field. For thousands of athletes and millions of fans across the nation, LaVell was far more than a steady presence on the sideline; he was a visionary leader, a father figure, and a trusted friend.
“I will be forever grateful for my own friendship with LaVell Edwards. He was not only one of the most successful coaches in college football history but one of the greatest men I ever knew. Today, my prayers are with Patti and all members of the Edwards family.”
Former BYU quarterback and Super Bowl champion Steve Young recalled another side of his college coach.Another former BYU quarterback, KSL Newsradio color analyst Marc Lyons, spoke for many former players when he called Edwards a father-figure. Matthew Edwards is a former BYU graduate assistant who currently coaches at Division III Southern Virginia. He’s also the grandson of the BYU Hall of Fame coach. Before he was a Cougar legend, Edwards played on the offensive line at Utah State. He was elected to the Aggies' All-Century Football Team in 1993.
“We are saddened by the passing of an Aggie legend in LaVell Edwards,” Utah State athletic director John Hartwell said in statement. “LaVell created a tremendous legacy during his time as a student-athlete at Utah State and that stature only grew throughout his professional career as a football coach.”
Even after his retirement in 2000, Edwards never went too far from the program. A lifelong resident of Utah who attended Utah State, Utah and earned his doctorate degree while coaching at BYU, Edwards connected with current players and appeared at public events like BYU’s annual preseason media day whenever health and circumstances permitted.Edwards left a legacy and a standard for every BYU coach who followed him, and beyond. His passing was mourned by former coaches, players, media members, coaches at rival schools, and others. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations be made to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Utah County in honor of coach Edwards.