Ed Zurga, ASSOCIATED PRESS
It's been more than three decades since Andy Reid played and coached football at BYU, and he still checks in with his old coach and former teammate.
He calls LaVell Edwards, the former BYU head coach and legend in residence, on a weekly basis. He texts and calls Kyle Whittingham, the University of Utah coach, every three weeks or so.
Reid was Whittingham’s teammate at BYU under Edwards and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Edwards’ staff in 1982. Since then, he has stayed in close contact with his Utah roots as he has climbed to the top of his profession. He called when he was an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers; he called when he was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles; he calls now that he is head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He’s one of those guys who spends too much time at work,” says Edwards. “He goes in at 4 a.m. and gets home at 10. Maybe he just likes to have a change, 'cause we don’t talk much about football.”
Edwards has been in contact with Reid through it all — the three Super Bowl seasons with the Packers and Eagles, the Terrell Owens nonsense, the Michael Vick signing, the Donovan McNabb years, the Eagles’ downturn, his own firing, the Kansas City hiring. Now Reid is the hottest story in football with his revival of the Chiefs, who, in Reid’s first year are 6-0 after winning just two games last season.
“We just seemed to strike up a relationship when he played here and was a GA (graduate assistant coach),” says Edwards, who has visited with Reid in person when he was on the East Coast. “I always had good relationships with the guys, but he was unique that way, particularly when he went to the NFL.”
Last summer Reid told KSL.com, “I have more respect for (Edwards) than anybody ... When you ask me about my favorite people, he's right there at the top."
Reid played football with Whittingham from 1979-81. He was a lineman from California who converted to the Mormon faith. Whittingham was an all-conference linebacker from Provo. They struck up a friendship.
“We hung out together,” says Whittingham, who stayed at Reid’s home a couple of years ago while visiting Philadelphia.
Edwards and Whittingham have watched from a distance as Reid has become one of the NFL’s top coaches. If you like redemptive stories, Reid is your coach, the Chiefs are your team, and Alex Smith is your quarterback.
Reid lost his 14-year coaching job in Philadelphia after winning just four games last season, and Smith lost his starting job with the 49ers to Colin Kaepernick. After being hired by the Chiefs, Reid, who had tried to obtain Smith “multiple times” as coach of the Eagles, traded two second-round draft picks to secure the former Utah quarterback. Before doing so, he called Whittingham to discuss Smith, who played for the Utes when Whittingham was their defensive coordinator.
“I gave him my complete endorsement,” says Whittingham. “I told Andy, first of all, that Alex is extremely intelligent and understands everything about the game, and I felt he had a lot of good years. He had so many different offensive coordinators in San Francisco; I told him I thought if Alex were given a situation where he was able to have more continuity, he would flourish.”
Smith has delivered a solid, workman-like performance, managing and augmenting the Chiefs’ strong running attack with his passing and running. He ranks no better than 21st in passing yards among NFL quarterbacks, but he has played virtually mistake-free.
Reid told MMQB.com, “I just always watched (Smith) and thought, ‘Man, I'd like to coach that kid.'"
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