Retiring Paul Tidwell ran the gamut during his career as a football coach. From coaching a national championship team at Snow College to witnessing Luke Staley win the Doak Walker Award on a BYU team that won 12 games during his first season in Provo, Tidwell’s scrapbook is full.

Tidwell retires at the end of July as a student welfare specialist in BYU’s athletic department. He will be remembered as a kind, forthright, insightful builder of young men.

It was Tidwell who recruited — from start to finish — two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who spent a season with the Miami Dolphins and is now back in New England. Van Noy a member of the Patriots all-decade team. Tidwell was BYU’s recruiting coordinator when the Cougars’ recruiting class ranked 22nd in the nation in 2010 — an accomplishment BYU hasn’t been close to repeating since.

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Tidwell says the recruiting star ranking might be interesting to follow but it is far from accurate in interpreting how good a high school athlete can become in college or the NFL.

He’s got two prime examples.

Brant Boyer was a skinny kid out of Coalville in northern Utah. People told him he’d never play college ball because he was too small. “Get on with your education,” he was advised. “Give up football,” they said.

Tidwell encouraged Boyer to walk on at Snow College where he redshirted his freshman year then started two years as an inside linebacker. He then accepted a scholarship at Arizona and started his junior and senior seasons for what was knows as “Desert Swarm,” the No. 1-ranked defense in the country. Then Boyer played 12 years in the NFL. Right now, he is the special teams coach for the New York Jets and has held that job through three head coaching changes.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Boyer and what he’s accomplished,” said Tidwell.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Derek Smith, left, chases Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in the second half of an NFL football game in this Oct. 9, 2005, in San Francisco. | George Nikitin, Associated Press

Example No. 2 is Derek Smith out of American Fork. Smith had a couple of Division I offers out of high school but decided to go to Snow College and play linebacker for Tidwell. He ended up on scholarship at Arizona State then started for the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers in a 10-year NFL career.

Tidwell was looking through his phone the other day, rifling through names of contacts, former players, some stars, some not, and he came across David Foote from St. George, a walk-on running back at BYU. Tidwell sent him a text, praising him, telling him he was one of the toughest football players he’d ever been around and he’d walked on at BYU. Foote, says Tidwell, epitomizes many of the athletes he’s seen come through the Cougars program. “That’s what makes BYU great, I think. Just work hard and want to be a part of the program. They are just a great fit; they want to be a part of BYU.”

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Tidwell played fullback at Utah State from 1973 through 1976 before he got into coaching high school at Richfield High, then North Sanpete High in Mount Pleasant. He became the Snow College defensive coordinator in the mid-’80s, where he joined offensive coordinator Gary Crowton in bringing the 1985 NJCAA national championship trophy to Ephraim under head coach Walt Criner. That team went 11-0.

While in Ephraim, Tidwell went to the home of Bronco Mendenhall with Criner to recruit him to Snow College. It was a successful pitch and Mendenhall became a member of that perfect 1985 team.

Tidwell worked as the head coach at Eastern Arizona in the early ’90s before following Crowton to Louisiana Tech. When Crowton replaced the legendary LaVell Edwards in 2001, he brought Tidwell with him.

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“I hit the jackpot, my dream job,” is how Tidwell puts his hire.

“I remember when we started the season 8-0 and I told my wife I had to pinch myself because this was my dream job and this had turned out to be a dream season. The Cougars had Brandon Doman and Staley and a stable of players who chased an undefeated season and put real pressure on the BCS to let them in. Didn’t happen.

But Tidwell was part of BYU’s staff that registered the No. 24-ranked defense in 2010, the No. 13 defense in 2011, and the No. 3 defense in 2012.

When Mendenhall left for Virginia, Tidwell accepted a job in the athletic department at BYU in 2015 working with athletes from all sports, a job he said was very fulfilling because of the broad relationships he built with both women and men.

It helped to have a Van Noy and Ziggy Ansah to establish a nation-leading defense, said Tidwell, and it was that success that helped BYU get the No. 22 recruiting class back in 2010.

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“I think the success BYU had this past year will really give a boost to recruiting right now and they will reap the rewards,” said Tidwell.

Like so many coaches who have made that career their life, Tidwell says the thing he will remember most are the relationships with players, administrators, parents and fellow coaches. He has a built-in friend base and connections that span almost five decades.

Tidwell fondly reflects on a recruiting trip he made to Reno to recruit Van Noy at McQueen High. He was running late that morning and the traffic was bad. His foot on the pedal got a little heavy trying to get to the school before classes began.

Suddenly he saw it. Red flashing lights on a police cruiser pulled up behind him as he pulled into the school parking lot. His heart kind of sunk with that feeling of woe, that all he needed was a speeding ticket on a road trip.

The officer asked Tidwell for his identification as he explained who he was and why he was there. He was wearing his BYU gear. At just that moment, Van Noy came up to the scene smiling and said, “Hey, coach Tidwell, what’s up?”  

The officer asked if Van Noy was the recruit he was visiting that day. 

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“Yes, he is,” Tidwell replied.

“Well, good luck and have a nice day,” replied the patrolman as he turned and left.

Connections.

Tidwell cemented a few in all his days with a cap, whistle and all that school gear.

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