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Legendary BYU offensive line coach Roger French dies

PROVO — Roger French, 86, a legendary member of BYU’s football coaching staff during the glory days of LaVell Edwards, died Saturday in Minnesota.

French was instrumental in producing many NFL linemen out of BYU in the 1980s and '90s when working as the Cougars' offensive line coach. He was later co-offensive coordinator with Norm Chow before retiring after 21 years at BYU.

Gail Luedke, Roger's daughter, said the family will be meeting with a mortuary on Monday to finalize plans for his funeral.

According to family members, French was active in talking to offensive line coaches at every level during the weeks leading up to his passing at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at an assisted living home near his residence of Maple Grove, Minnesota. His wife Dottie died a year ago.

“I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to play for Roger French,” said 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer. “He did a great job with our O-line every year having those guys ready to play every week. He was a good man that had great influence on a lot of men at BYU.”

Among French disciples is current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who played for the Cougars in the late '70s and once wrote a column for the Provo Daily Herald called “The French Legion.”

Among All-Americans coached by French are Outland Trophy winner Moe Elewonibi, Nick Eyre, Bart Oates, Trevor Matich and Evan Pilgrim. Both Virginia offensive coordinator Robert Anae and former BYU offensive line coach and Snow College coach Mike Empey also played for the legendary coach.

French came to BYU in 1980 when Jim McMahon led BYU to a comeback victory over SMU in the Holiday Bowl. He is a member of the BYU Hall of Fame and Minnesota High School Coaching Association Hall of Fame.

"Everyone remembers Doug Scovil, Mike Holmgren, Ted Tollner and Norm Chow over the years," said former assistant coach Mel Olsen. "But it was Roger French who kept things together and was a solidifying force for Edwards over a very long time."