Facebook Twitter

Edwards had low profile, big impact

SHARE Edwards had low profile, big impact

The tributes are spraying like passes into the flat now that LaVell Edwards has decided 56 straight autumns of two-a-days is enough.

The high school that introduced him to football when he was 14 years old 56 seasons ago is now a parking lot in Orem.

The first stadium he coached in when he came to BYU in 1962 is now a flowered hillside.

The original Cougar Stadium he moved into in 1964 is covered over by the 65,000-seat behemoth built to engulf it in 1982.

When you've outlasted that many offices, maybe it's time.

Forget the 251 wins. Forget the third best active winning percentage. Forget the 20 conference titles and 22 bowl bids. Forget the passing revolution. Even forget the national championship.

To me, the LaVell Edwards legacy is his ability to get along with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

His world was as high-ego, high-competition, high-pressure, high-expectation as they come — with the possible exception of Bill Clinton's legal team — and yet for 56 years he walked through it like it was a monastery.

He didn't cut across the grain; he rolled with it. He didn't want to run the show, he wanted to run with it.

My personal opinion is that he is very likely the most unique football coach in history.

Six years ago, I wrote a book with him. We'd sit in his office and talk about his life and the thing was, I did most of the talking. I've done books with other people, and this is not normal. Standard procedure is that the person with the remarkable life story to tell dominates the conversation.

I remember the day we both ran out of anything to say. The tape recorder was on his desk, rolling along, and we just sat there for a minute and I finally said, "Well, anything else?" and LaVell said, "I can't think of anything."

As I was leaving he had just one request, self-deprecating as usual: "Try not to make me sound like a P.E. major from Utah State."

Six months later, when I mailed him the manuscript containing his memoirs and asked him to make any corrections, changes or alterations, know how many he made?

Zero would be the correct answer.

Among the remarkable things LaVell Edwards accomplished while it appeared he wasn't accomplishing anything was breaking the color barrier at BYU.

I think it typifies his genius.

About now you're probably saying, "What color barrier at BYU?"

Precisely the point.

It was LaVell who recruited BYU's first black player when, as an assistant coach to Tommy Hudspeth, he was dispatched to Chicago in the early 1960s to visit a bus driver-football star named Paul Devine.

Not only did he get Devine to come to Provo, he got a whole lot of other black athletes to come over the years.

Some stayed. Some didn't. Some played. Some didn't. But how many times did you see LaVell Edwards mention it, let alone make a big deal out of it?

And how many times did you see the team make a big deal out of it?

At a football program in a homogenized, conservative, nearly all-white valley tucked in the shadows of Utah, blacks and whites — and a bunch of other races not to mention cultures and religions — got along just fine. Decade after decade after decade.

Now that's remarkable.

As the old football saying goes, teams reflect the character and personality of their head coach.

In the case of LaVell Edwards' teams at BYU, they've reflected it so well for so long the hard part has always been to recognize just how remarkable they really have been.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.