PROVO — Sixty-four years ago, when Patti Covey was a freshman at Utah State University, her girlfriend’s boyfriend talked her into going on a blind date with this guy who played on the football team.
How’d that work out?
This July, Patti and that guy — legendary football coach LaVell Edwards — will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary.
Back then, she had no idea he would become the seventh winningest coach in major college football history, win a national championship, get elected to the Hall of Fame, and have his name spelled out in letters 15 feet high on the stadium just below their house on the Provo bench.
And he had no idea she would become one of the most influential football spouses in the country, the founder of the American Football Coaches Wives Association, and an avid advocate and example for women married to coaches and players to find their own outlets and establish their unique identities.
The accomplishments are all the more remarkable because she was a cowgirl from Wyoming who knew nothing about football and had absolutely no desire to be a coach’s wife (more on that below).
She came from Big Piney, a small high-plains Wyoming town about a million miles from anything, including football. Her dad, Irwin, ran the service station, serviced the county’s school buses and delivered oil to the ranchers. A one-man conglomerate.
She was an only child — her mother, Louise, almost died giving birth to her — and an only grandchild. She grew up a city girl in a country town. She had five horses, rode all of ‘em, and was crowned rodeo queen.
When she was a teenager, her parents sent her off to northern Utah to live with an aunt and uncle in Beaver Dam so she could attend nearby Bear River High School, where they felt she might receive a more civilized education. Her grades won her a scholarship to the University of Wyoming and acceptance to Smith’s, a prominent women’s college in Missouri.
But she wanted to go where her friends were going, and that meant over the mountain to Logan and Utah State University.
She met her future husband — he was a junior — in September of her freshman year, and they were married the following July of 1951. After LaVell’s senior year, he went in the Army — his first coaching experience was on a military base — and Patti went with him until he was shipped overseas. She went back home to Big Piney to wait for him and worked in the bank.
When he returned in 1954, they moved to Salt Lake City so LaVell could take over as football coach at Granite High School. During eight years at Granite, their first two children, Ann and John, came along. In 1962, when LaVell took a job as an assistant coach at BYU, their third child, Jim, arrived. Ten years later, LaVell was promoted to head coach at BYU. The Edwards family settled into a home on the Provo bench, just below Rock Canyon.
Against all odds — in a profession that has all the stability of a Wyoming summer — they’re still there.
On a recent weekday morning, as LaVell ran off to get the dry cleaning, Patti Edwards sat down in the living room with the Deseret News to talk about her life.
DN: Thank you for the visit. This must rank as some kind of record — for a football coach's family to call the same place home for almost 50 years.
PE: It is rare, and to tell the truth something I never expected. I’m a worrier, and I really felt every year that we were going to be fired. In the first 18 years of LaVell’s career, he had four winning seasons. Then at BYU he only had one losing season in 29 years.
DN: Was it football that brought you two together?
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