The start to the 1984 football season was magical for BYU. The Cougars went on the road and upset the nation’s No. 3 team, Pitt, on national television — the first live college football game ever broadcast on ESPN. After the win, BYU entered the national polls at No. 13, and ascended for the rest of the season — culminating in the program’s lone national championship.
BYU head coach LaVell Edwards and his wife, Patti Edwards, hosted a victory celebration at their home. Players and assistant coaches attended, as did the Edwards children. LaVell Edwards’ oldest son, John Edwards, brought along one Becky Price — a master’s student at BYU, and an old friend from high school. This was only their third or fourth date, and midway through the party, Price went missing.
John Edwards eventually found Price in the backyard, walking around the garden with Coach Edwards. Price enjoyed gardening, and LaVell Edwards needed no urging to showcase his affinity. They spent half an hour discussing all the varieties of flowers in the yard — zinnias, daylilies, snapdragons.
Later in the season, LaVell Edwards pulled his oldest son aside to talk about Price. “Don’t mess this one up,” he said.
John and Becky Edwards were married within a few months.
Nearly four decades later, as Becky Edwards continues her campaign as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, those close to her say she’s taking cues from her father-in-law’s old playbook: stoic determination paired with willingness to slow down and listen. And in turn, her time at BYU — where her late father, Al Price, taught for 32 years — continues to shape her career and her campaign.
“I grew up feeling like BYU and that campus was my home. It became the center of our lives in so many ways,” Becky Edwards said. “The impact on my children and so many others across the world is a testament to BYU’s enduring vision and mission.“
Before Becky and John Edwards started dating, and before she’d ever met LaVell Edwards, she worked for a secretary in the football office during her freshman year at BYU. She never interacted with coach Edwards, but she earned the secretary’s respect: She was the only student on the secretary’s good side, John Edwards said, because she could type 150 words per minute.
That same work ethic continued throughout her college years. John Edwards remembers the late nights Becky Edwards would spend working on her thesis for a dual master’s program. “It was magical to watch her commitment to that,” John Edwards said. ”She did it to help people in tough situations and to help people in marginalized communities.”
After graduating from BYU with a dual master’s degree in social work and marriage and family therapy, Becky Edwards worked for several years as a social worker before running for a seat in the Utah House of Representatives.
Coach Edwards was one of Becky Edwards’ biggest supporters as she decided to enter the political arena. “He always valued people who did things well,” John Edwards said of his father. “He didn’t care what you did, but how you did it. And right off the bat he could tell with Becky that she always did her best, whatever it was.”
When Becky Edwards was campaigning for her second term as representative of Davis County in the Utah House in 2010, the retired Coach Edwards — at age 80 — insisted on helping.
One Saturday morning, he joined others of Becky Edwards’ supporters to knock doors and place yard signs. After a few hours, the team reunited, sharing the number of houses contacted and signs posted.
Some campaigners made it to 30 homes; others, to 40. When Coach Edwards returned, he said he’d only gone to three or four. He’d engaged in long conversations at each household, getting to know the family, the neighbors, and — of course — their gardens. Despite the apparent inefficiency of his method, Coach Edwards was certain of one thing: these folks were going to vote for Becky Edwards.
This conviction, that success could be found in nurturing one genuine conversation at a time, was something that defined the character of both Coach Edwards and Becky Edwards, according to Ron McBride, longtime football coach at the University of Utah.
“He was an extremely good listener to his players,” McBride noted, and because he listened, because it was so evident he cared, the players never wanted to disappoint him. This was “absolutely” a similarity between LaVell and Becky Edwards, McBride asserted.
Over the course of their decades-long friendship, McBride became intimately acquainted with Edwards’ family, including Becky. McBride was impressed by Becky Edwards when he met her years ago.
“She thinks about what she says before she says it,” McBride observed. “She listens to people’s opinions and what their thoughts are, and makes a decision for what is best for all people.”