Remembering Fred Whittingham
Fred Whittingham Sr. grew up in Warwick, R.I., where he became a hard-nosed, all-state athlete in three sports. After playing college football at BYU and Cal-Poly, he made the leap to the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.
Along the way, additions to the Whittingham family included sons Kyle, Cary, Freddy, Brady, and sister Julie .
"When I was younger – when he was playing – he would take me to practice," Kyle said. "Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan – all those great Cowboy players. Just being able to have those opportunities was really special to me."
After nine years in the NFL, the elder Whittingham jumped into the coaching ranks, eventually ending up back at BYU as a defensive coach under Lavell Edwards. Between all the practices, recruiting trips and coaching duties, he still found time to play ball with his kids.
"One of the funniest stories was when Kyle and my dad were throwing the football around," Freddy said. "My dad threw the ball to Kyle, and he missed it. The ball landed in some dog 'doo-doo.' Kyle picked it right up and threw it back to him. My dad caught it and was looking at his hands, and at that point Kyle just took off running."
Once again, Whittingham made the leap into the NFL as a defensive coach for the Los Angeles Rams, where he coached both Kyle and Cary in 1987. He spent most of the next 14 years in the NFL before heading to Utah to coach with Kyle at the University of Utah.
In fall 2003, Whittingham passed away from complications during back surgery. His family still feels the void a decade later.
"I miss him – the direction he gave us in our lives," Cary said.
Brady added, "When I think about what I miss the most, it's just hanging out."
"I miss everything about him. I wish he was here because if he was here he'd probably be on our staff helping me out," Kyle said with a laugh
While some of the Whittingham children have continued in the coaching ranks and others have settled into life without football, it's easy to see they will pass their father's impact along to their children.
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"My dad loved us unconditionally," Freddy said. "That's what I want to pass on to my kids – that they know they're loved no matter what, that they always know that their parents are there for them."
Brady continued, "He had few hobbies. He didn't golf, didn't go to the movies, didn't travel much. He prioritized time with the family and grandkids over anything else."
(From a series of interviews with Utah athletes talking about their fathers on HomeSports.com)
Tim Johnson is the art director at KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. He and his wife, Alicia, are the proud parents of five daughters who, thankfully, look like their mother.