He’s had a front-row seat to the lives and games of some of the most successful college and NFL players and coaches of all time. Retired offensive guru Norm Chow’s people and his observations are here in what we call Chow’s Peeps.

Chow is a LaVell Edwards disciple, part of Edwards’ coaching tree that includes the best coach in the NFL, Andy Reid, new Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian, and both Kyle Whittingham and Kalani Sitake.

These days, Chow and his wife Diane live in Manhattan Beach, California, where they enjoy being grandparents, taking lazy walks on sun-splashed days in Southern California while, like all of us, trying to keep safe in a world of COVID-19.

“We’re doing well,” Chow says of the retired life. “When I say well, we’re old. But we’re healthy and trying to stay healthy. We have four children and nine grandchildren. Two of them still live here. Cameron, my son, and I have lived here for 15 years and he was a high school teacher and a coach until he realized he couldn’t make a go of it here (with the economy) and moved back to Utah County.”

His son Carter works as a sports agent, based in California, and his youngest, Chandler works in the movie business as a creative director for Universal Studios. His only daughter, Maile, and her husband are school teachers in Hawaii.

In a break from retirement, Chow shared his thoughts with the Deseret News on the remarkable athletes and coaches he’s worked with through the years.

For instance, in a very long train of successful BYU tight ends that included bookend NFL-bound stars Chad Lewis and Itula Mili, Chow declares the best of all was Gordon Hudson, whose soft hands and route-running made him a yardage sponge.

“We tried to get Todd Christensen to be a tight end, but he wanted to be a running back. It was Doug Scovil who really featured the tight ends, tried to get them the ball. Just old gridiron-type football, taking a blocker and making them into pass-catchers. With Chad Lewis and Itula Mili, it was Chad who made that work because he wanted Itula to also be featured.”

XFL was short-lived, but former BYU, Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow says experience was ‘an absolute blast’
Norm Chow's career has come full circle

Chow remains an intriguing character and is called upon regularly by both NFL personalities and national pundits to chime in on issues or research. After 27 years as a BYU assistant, he left BYU after Edwards retired. He coached at North Carolina State, USC, UCLA, the Tennessee Titans, University of Utah and got his first head coaching job at the University of Hawaii from 2011 to 2015.

A multiple national assistant-of-the-year honoree during his college coaching days, Chow helped develop eight of the top 14 career pass-efficiency leaders and 13 quarterbacks who rank among the top 30 in NCAA history for single-season passing yardage, including national record holders Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer.

Here is a glimpse at some of his takes on the stars of the game. His comments have been edited for space and clarity.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, right, watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Kansas City. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs head coach

“Reid has done marvels. He was a backup offensive lineman at BYU and many people don’t know that. He learned well, I mean he hung around Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden. I think he learned awfully, awfully well and you have to admire the guy. He’s not forgotten his roots and when LaVell passed, he was the first one there. That is the kind of guy he is. I remember going out to Philadelphia when they had their first days of OTAs and I asked if I could hang around and observe practice. I remember him telling me to go to the cafeteria and get a sandwich and bring it back to his office and we’d have lunch after he showered while we broke down practice film. I did what I was told. They delivered his lunch to him and he was on a diet. His diet was chicken and pineapple, but he must have had four chickens and about five pineapples. We had a big laugh about his diet. But he is a man who absolutely knows what it’s all about and remembers where he came from.”

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon (9) and other members of the Super Bowl XX Championship Chicago Bears team are honored before the NFL game between the Green Bay Packers, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Chicago. | Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini

Jim McMahon, All-American, Super Bowl MVP

“Probably one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around. People make him out to be a certain type of guy with a lot of stories about him, but he caused us no trouble; no problems at BYU. He would walk into the office and he’d look at tape and he would know exactly what was going on. I would look at the tape for two hours before I could figure it out. He was looking at it and could figure it out right then and there. I think when he went back to Chicago he got in trouble with Mike Ditka because he did the same thing. I was happy with it and so was Doug (Scovil) because it helped.”

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young throws against the St. Louis Rams at San Francisco’s 3Com Park. | Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

Steve Young, All-American, Super Bowl MVP

“Again, another tremendous athlete. I wish we could take credit for making him a quarterback, but I think he got to be a better quarterback when he left and he had to sit on a bench behind Joe Montana. I tell the story all the time, we’d give him a pattern and we told him to look for number one, Gordon Hudson. If he isn’t open, run. ... Ted (Tollner) said he wanted to move Steve to safety and I told him he really had to look at this guy because he was so dead accurate. You know the rest of the story.”

BYU quarterbacks delivers a pass. | Ravell Call, Deseret News

Robbie Bosco, All-American

“Another guy that just kind of hung in there, and what was interesting about that period of time was everybody paid their dues. You’d come to BYU, you’d sit on a bench for two years.  Back then, that was your journey, to be in a quarterback meeting for two years. These days, that’s a problem. Again, Robbie was very accurate and had great anticipation. He was surrounded by some very good players and he just handled it all. Back at the time, we were recruiting Sean Salisbury and he de-committed, but we had Robbie in our back pocket and he wasn’t going to come if Sean signed with us. Robbie had a chance to go to Cal and other places, but he decided to come to BYU.”

BYU quarterback Ty Detmer looks to pass against the Miami Hurricanes in Provo.
BYU Quarterbacks online photo gallery BYU Heisman-winner Ty Detmer. | Ravell Call, Deseret News

Ty Detmer, Heisman Trophy winner

I love the guy. Absolutely cherish the relationship and still see him periodically. He was represented by Carter’s group before Carter (Chow) became an agent. They have camps at that agency and Ty still comes out and I get a chance to see him. He is probably as smart as anyone could be and is a tremendous human being. I just love the guy. He has done and continues to do a lot for the university.”

Past BYU quarterback Gifford Nielsen signs helmets at Riverside Country Club in Provo as part of BYU’s quarterback week on Friday September 3, 2010. The event raises athletic endowment funding. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Gifford Nielsen, All-American, NFL QB

“I was just starting out as a graduate assistant and I didn’t have a lot of direct dealings with him. I think I was a JV coach when he was playing but I remember him being a very accurate quarterback. That’s what I do remember, a guy with a real understanding and feel for what Doug (Scovil) and those guys were trying to get done.”

BYU All-American quarterback Marc Wilson prepares to take a snap during practice in Provo. | Don Grayston, Deseret News

Marc Wilson, All-American, NFL QB

“Same way as Gifford. I always admired the guy because he and (Jim) McMahon had their battles, and he handled it like a real professional. One year he was the captain but Jim was playing, and you know he wasn’t happy about it. But I thought he handled that very well. He was another real smart player. He was a great anticipation-type guy.”

Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart, right, hugs head coach Pete Carroll as they celebrate their win over Orgeon State, 52-28, in Los Angeles. | Kevork Djansezian, Associated Press

Matt Leinart, Heisman Trophy winner

“He lives right around the corner. Smart as a whip, great anticipation in throwing a football. A terrific guy as well. He wasn’t there that spring when there was a big battle going on with Matt Cassel. I told Pete Carroll if it were up to me, we should go with Matt and we went the rounds. Matt stepped up. He’s quite a leader and accurate as all get out and smart as heck. I remember scrimmaging and Pete would do something and Matt would lean over and yell, ‘You can’t do that! You can’t do that either!’ He knew exactly what people were trying to get done.”

Co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick prior to the game against Cal on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Salt Lake City Utah. | Tom Smart, Deseret News

Aaron Roderick, BYU/Utah offensive coordinator

“He played for me at BYU. When I went to Utah I believe he was actually a co-coordinator, but Kyle (Whittingham) wanted me to coordinate. When Kyle talked about the job I wanted to make sure to talk to Aaron before. He handled it very well. I think he’s been around good coaching. I think he’s great. I’m not sure how he commands a room because he’s such a nice respectful kind of quiet guy, but I think he is very wise. I think he will be fine.”

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake walks down the ramp onto the field during the Cougars’ scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. | Tyler Richardson, BYU Photo

Kalani Sitake, BYU head coach

“He was another guy that played and was solid and did a great job and all that. I think he’s a very bright defensive coach. I really do think he learned a wealth of things from Kyle, his stuff is just like Kyle’s. I remember the year we worked together at Utah. It was like watching Kyle coach. He studied and he worked hard at it. He was very anxious to become a head coach and I think he’s doing a great job. I think he has figured it out and he has taken charge. He’s back to getting big offensive linemen like we used to have and that makes it all work. He’s doing a great job.”

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham speaks with members of the media after their spring training at the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 4, 2019. | Silas Walker, Deseret News

Kyle Whittingham, Utah head coach

“Outstanding, absolutely outstanding. He had good training and he learned to be a head coach, and he does a great job. He has total command of that program and he’s fair, he’s honest, he’s forthright and demanding as all get out, especially on his coaches. You know a lot of guys have a challenge with him as a coach because he’s demanding, but that’s what you have to do. I think he’s found his niche. He reminds me so much of his father Fred. He’s just a wonderful guy.”

Philadelphia Eagles defensive ends Chad Lewis (89) and L.J. Smith (82) run through a drill at the team’s training facility in Bethlehem, Pa., Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004. | Bradley C. Bower, Associated Press

Chad Lewis, multiple-time All-Pro tight end

“He really is a special human being. He actually texted me not too long ago. We used to have a play called 66-whatever that featured the tight end. He thanked me for calling that play so many times, going his way. The tight ends and receivers were good at BYU because they taught each other. There was a thing going on that the seniors taught the freshmen. When they ran routes and had to make a curl at 14, it was 14. You had guys like Eric Drage who would run it exactly, not 14 and a half, but 14.  If you didn’t run it right, you didn’t run it at all. It was something they demanded of themselves and Drage would run it around the park all night.”

Baltimore Ravens former head coach Brian Billick, left, fields questions during a news conference announcing Haloti Ngata’s retirement from the NFL, Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Owings Mills, Md. | Gail Burton, Associated Press

Brian Billick, former Baltimore Ravens head coach

“He really made a name for himself. He is another really bright guy. It’s impressive he got as far as he did. He attached himself early to Doug Scovil. Scovil was his man and he became a favorite for Doug. There’s a story out there someone told me that his roommate and center Tom Miller had applied for a PR job with the 49ers and they called one day. Tom wasn’t there and Brian answered the phone. He told them Tom wasn’t there but he was and that’s how the door opened for him with the 49ers. He has been really impressive all these years in all he’s done.”

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer answers a question during a news conference after practice at the team facility in Tempe, Ariz. | Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

Carson Palmer, Heisman Trophy winner

“I just love that guy. We still stay in touch, he moved up to Idaho, Sun Valley, I think. If you have to make a video about quarterback technique, you know, how to throw a football, he would be the one to go to. He had a QB coach since he was 10. He’d want to work, he’d tell me all the time, ‘Coach, I have to see it, I need to see it.’ Once he got the work and wasn’t a backup with limited reps, he got it. He was money.”

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) motions from behind center against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. | Brett Carlsen)Associated Press

Philip Rivers, NFL quarterback

“I just got through watching him. Still looks like he’s 17 years old. Another terrific guy. He is a guy like Matt Leinart, who ties it all together the same way. I go to camps with my son Carter and saw him when he was with the Chargers and he still treats everybody like he did when he was 17 and 18 years old. When we went through spring practice at North Carolina State he stuck out to me. I went to the head coach and told him we needed to move him up, he was our starter, we had to make the switch right then.”

Texas quarterback Vince Young looks to pass against Kansas during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas. | Eric Gay, Associated Press

Vince Young, NFL QB

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“I’ve never seen a more athletic quarterback than Vince Young. When he was with the Titans we had Steve McNair and he was at the end of his career. We looked at Jake Cutler and had flown to Austin to see Young. Matt Leinart was my choice, but the general manager liked Young. But Young wasn’t ready to play in the NFL and he would tell you that to this day. He was a talented, talented guy and that’s how Texas beat us at USC. One time we were playing the Houston Texans and we said, ‘Let’s let Vince just go get it for us.’ I told him if nothing is open just run and get us four yards so we can keep the ball. The guy goes 58 yards. He runs right past every single human being and scores a touchdown.”

Asked his opinion of BYU junior Zach Wilson, who is expected to be a first-round draft pick, possibly the No. 2 pick, Chow said he has only seen a few games with Wilson during his career.

He compares him to Rivers, a 15-year NFL veteran QB, still active after Chow coached him at North Carolina State.

“A guy I coached with in the XFL, Winston Moss, called me one day and asked me to watch what Coastal Carolina was doing, they were playing BYU. He wanted to talk about using the wishbone with the pistol. So I did get to sit and watch that game in bits and pieces. He’s another one with that anticipation on the ball and with understanding what is going on. I don’t know how tall he is and he needs to have the vision to be able to see over linemen but I didn’t see that as an issue. Aaron Roderick certainly got his people in the right spots and he delivered the ball. I think he has a great shot.”

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