Many football games and moments have stuck with me throughout my life, but very few reach the level of November 24th, 2000. Sitting in the less than friendly confines of Rice-Eccles Stadium, I was filled with mixed emotions leading up to the final game of the LaVell Edwards era. The ceremony to honor Coach Edwards before the game brought forth previously unfelt feelings of warmth towards the rival up north, that were only outweighed by the knowledge that this would be the last time I would see Coach Edwards wandering the sidelines of a BYU football game.
Until the last minutes, the game itself was nothing memorable. However, in the final minutes the Cougars gave us Doman to Pittman, Doman to Pittman II, and Doman from four yards out for the win. Before these plays I remembers sitting in the stands and thinking that BYU had to find a way to pull out the win. Not because I braved the Utah fans in order to watch on the road, or because I spent enough money on the tickets that I couldn’t divulge the cost to my wife. Not even because the fans around me were already celebrating a Utah win. No, they had to find a way to win for the only head coach I had known at BYU.
This is what the Legendary Coach LaVell Edwards was to me. He was the face of BYU football. He was what made the program. LaVell Edwards and BYU football were synonymous. I never had the opportunity to meet Coach Edwards. I never had any interactions with him. Yet he found a way to make himself part of my life for months at a time. Every game, every coaches show, every news conference, and even every call-in show had my attention. Because he was my coach.
He was the coach I wanted to play for. He was the coach that put my favorite players on display week in and week out. He showed me you can be a professional AND an active member of the LDS faith. He showed me you can shoot for the moon and reach the stars. I will never forget the moments I had watching the Miracle bowl, the countless Holiday bowl appearances, or the Cougars bringing home my National Championship. Yet, a simple win for a 6-6 team that allowed my coach to leave the game with a win over his rival meant just as much to me at that moment as those other great moments.
Coach Edwards was never just a coach; he was bigger than life, he was religious while successful. His football career was just a drop in the bucket to his true purpose in life. Now he moves on to a greater calling and with no doubt will be just as successful, and much more rewarded, than he was being known around college football, and having a stadium named after him. Thank you coach LaVell Edwards for all the memories, and enjoy the gridiron in the sky that is sure to wait for one of the greatest legends of all-time.