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

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

“He was the quiet hero of BYU football," said James Lark, who played quarterback at BYU from 2010-12. "He was never in the papers. He was never in front of the media. But he made the whole thing run. He made it very successful. The players love him. Those that didn't love him probably didn't know him very well."

Oddly, immediately after Busby left BYU, former players and members of the media that tried to contact him discovered that his phone was disconnected. They found that his Twitter and Facebook accounts had disappeared. His abrupt departure was stunning to current players and former players alike.

“It really surprised me. I thought Duane would be a lifer there forever,” said Stevenson. “He was BYU football to me. I reached out to him to see who had given him a big-money offer and I couldn’t get ahold of him. His cellphone was disconnected. He was off Twitter and Facebook. Nobody knew how to get ahold of him.”

Lark, meanwhile, said he wasn't necessarily surprised when he heard the news that Busby was leaving BYU.

“He always told me he wanted to give as much as he could to BYU, then he wanted to move on to different opportunities or retire in the next few years," he said. "I figured he had given his all to BYU and wanted to try something new. Then I started to find out why he left, and I felt bad. He left such a positive impact on the program and a lot of people are only going to remember him for this, in a negative sense.”

Stevenson acknowledged that his point of reference is from the period he played at BYU, in 1995-1998, and that he isn't familiar with the program as it has been run by Mendenhall and doesn't know anything that has happened in recent years.

Stevenson referred to Busby as “the fixer,” but he meant it in a positive connotation.

“Duane took a lot of pride in being the behind-the-scenes guy that made everything run smoothly,” he said. “He wasn’t handing people cash. But he was probably bending a lot of the rules or walking along the edge of the cliff when he probably shouldn’t have been.”

Lark acknowledged that Busby may have run afoul of some NCAA rules, but, he said, that wasn't Busby's intention.

“Duane was doing it for the right reasons because he was trying to help out friends. He wasn’t saying, ‘Any football player can live with me.’ Duane became very close friends with a lot of the players. Duane had a handful of guys he connected with, and I was one of them. I never lived with him, but he wanted to help. … I don’t blame Duane at all for any bad intent. It’s unfortunate it’s turned out like this. One day, when he stands at the judgment bar, the fact that he was being giving and loving to players won’t fault him very much. It is against NCAA rules and it did hurt him here.”

Lark said Busby impacted the lives of many players.

“He was one of the reasons I came to BYU because I became friends with him while I was being recruited. I’ve called Duane at inconvenient times and he would always get back to me and try to help me out with questions. Even those players he wasn’t close with, he’d do absolutely anything for. I’m assuming it ended up costing him his job. He’s such a good guy. The BYU football program, where it is now, wouldn’t be as far along as it is and as successful as it is, without Duane. The main goal of the program is to change the lives of young men and prepare them for the real world. Duane played as big a part, if not more than the coaches, in doing that for some of the players."

A single man who never married, Busby spent much of his time involved in the lives of the players.

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