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Duane Busby carried a lot of influence in BYU's football program

Published: Thursday, May 22 2014 7:20 p.m. MDT

PROVO — When Derik Stevenson was arrested and landed in jail after making some bad decisions, and facing serious charges, back in January 1997, he made his one phone call to a man he knew he could trust — Duane Busby.

The distraught BYU linebacker contacted Busby, who was serving at the time as a personal assistant to legendary coach LaVell Edwards, and Busby rushed to Stevenson’s aid.

“I remember going to Duane’s house that day. I was a complete wreck. I thought my life was over,” Stevenson told the Deseret News Thursday. “It was the middle of the night and I crashed on his couch, and he talked with me until the wee hours of the morning.”

Seventeen years later, Stevenson credits Busby for helping him work through that legal situation, rejoin the football team, and turn his life around. Instead of going to prison, Stevenson starred for the Cougars, played briefly for the Miami Dolphins, and, today, is a husband and father, and a commercial insurance broker.

“Duane helped me make amends for what I had done wrong and to get back into good graces and admitted back to school and get my life back on track,” Stevenson said. “He was the one guy, more so than my coaches, that was by my side every day, helping me work with my (LDS) bishop and complete my community service and the demands the judge put upon me so I could be in good standing and get back into BYU. … He was, even more than LaVell Edwards, the man in the program that helped me turn my life around and improve who I was as a person. LaVell wanted to be a second father to all of us guys, but with such limited time, LaVell expected Duane to be an extension of himself and provide mentoring to the young men whose care LaVell was entrusted with.”

Busby is at the center of a monthslong internal review that has been conducted by BYU officials in response to allegations that players received impermissible benefits, which violates NCAA rules.

According to sources, former and current players have received free housing, gifts and other benefits.

Busby was part of the football program for nearly two decades. He was named the director of football operations in 2001, a position he held until the announcement of his sudden retirement on March 24 "to pursue other interests."

Following that announcement, when asked about Busby, coach Bronco Mendenhall said, "You don’t replace him. Personal friend. Trusted advisor. Essential to our success over the past nine years, and to me personally, and (wife) Holly. He’s not replaceable. Duane is understated, and he asked me specifically not to make a big deal about it. So that’s as big a deal as I can make it. I will miss him."

As Stevenson and other former players attest, the soft-spoken Busby had a big influence on the program, though he was largely an anonymous figure outside the program.

Even hard-core BYU fans could walk past Busby on the street and not recognize him or be aware of the enormous responsibility he carried with the team. Many fans probably hadn't even heard of him until a couple of days ago.

“And he wanted it that way,” Stevenson said. “He was a very quiet, unassuming, almost shy type of guy. But once you got to know him, you realized that he had so much pride in his work. He had this small little sliver in the world that he was in charge of, and he took pride in doing the best of his ability. ... All of the help he gave guys, he tried as much as he could to keep it secret. Not for the wrong reasons, but for the right reasons.”

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