Life lessons from LaVell Edwards

Life lessons from LaVell Edwards

(Scott G Winterton, KSL, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — My name is Dylan Cannon. I am currently the NCAA Compliance Coordinator at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. My grandfather is former BYU head football coach LaVell Edwards, who passed away in December 2016.

Working in college athletics, when coaches hear who my grandpa is, they tease me good-naturedly (usually) about how I joined the "dark side" by working in compliance. Naturally, though, I am frequently asked about him.

I have told many people throughout my life that if my grandpa had been employed as a farmer (like his own father), a truck driver, a teacher or any other host of jobs rather than a college football coach, he still would have been one of my heroes. In fact, I sometimes wish he had worked another profession so that when I speak of him I am not accused of being a "name dropper."

A humorous interaction I had with my grandpa when I lived with him during college is representative of his character and what he valued. My grandpa had a little office in his home in Provo with his computer that I had to show him at least 20 times how to turn on. He would sometimes spend time responding to emails.

One day, I went to his office to rib him about whether he needed me to show him how to connect to the internet again. When I got to the office, I noticed he was using his 1984 AFCA Coach of the Year award (awarded to the NCAA's most outstanding football coach that season) as a doorstop. I was aghast.

As someone who loved college sports, I could not believe that he did not treat his trophies like they were invaluable objects. There was another time when I found a plaque he was given for being elected to the NCAA Hall of Fame in a box in the unused fireplace downstairs. His response was simply: "Oh, that's where that ended up, Dyl?"

When I saw the coach of the year award being used as a doorstop, however, I had enough. I felt like I needed to make the man know how much the trophy was worth. I told him, "Grandpa, don't you know that the coach who just won the coach of the year award this year received a six-figure bonus for doing so?"

My grandpa sized me up for a moment and chuckled. He said, "Well, if BYU had given me a six-figure bonus for winning that trophy, maybe I wouldn't be using it as a doorstop. But I can't find the doorstop your grandmother bought and that trophy had enough heft to keep the door open since it's warm in here."


I was about to retort my disbelief when I looked around his office. There were almost no trophies prominently displayed. Instead, there were pictures — pictures of people. There were pictures of my mother (his only daughter who he unashamedly admitted was the apple of his eye) and my dad with their five sons.

Likewise, there were pictures of my two uncles and their families. There were pictures of his own father and mother, neither of which graduated from high school but whom my grandpa always credited for teaching him about what really mattered and who he showed deference. There were pictures of him with his players and their families. Of course, there was also his personalized signed photo of Willie "the Red Headed Stranger" Nelson.

After looking around, I decided (wisely) to refrain from giving my grandpa a lecture. He often said some variation of a statement that went something like this: "Dyl, there's only one thing you take with you when you die and that is your relationships; your relationships with your God, with your spouse, with your children and with your fellowman."

While I saw wisdom in these statements, this experience in his office made me realize, again, that when he would say that, it was not just lip service; he actually meant it.

This is not to say that my grandpa is not proud of his accomplishments on the field. He was and he should be; however, he deeply believed and, without saying a word, conveyed it to his impressionable grandson that the trophies he received for his on-field accomplishments would inevitably rust since they were made of temporal materials.

The relationships he had with people in his life were of infinite worth. When he passed away, at his funeral, my youngest brother played "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson. I cannot think of a tribute that would be more fitting; one of the many people that my grandpa touched with his kindness playing a song about meeting up with my grandpa's "best of friends." I am glad that I get to be associated with a man who had his priorities so properly aligned.

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