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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at a public memorial service for former Cougar football coach LaVell Edwards at the Provo Convention Center on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.

PROVO, UTAH

Hundreds of Brigham Young University football fans and former players gathered on the eve of LaVell Edwards' Jan. 7 funeral to honor the man who would become the Church-owned school's de-facto goodwill ambassador.

“Only the university's namesake, good old Brother Brigham himself, may be the only better-known link in the nation to this university than is the name of LaVell Edwards,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Jan. 6 public memorial service at the Utah Valley Convention Center.

The evening included a six-minute video of iconic photos of Coach Edwards, who died Dec. 29 at the age of 86. He led BYU to an unprecedented national championship in 1984, earned 257 wins in 29 seasons as the Cougar head coach and made countless friends and admirers inside and outside of football.

“What you saw is what you got,” said Elder Holland. “It was a quality that reassured me all those years that LaVell would never embarrass the university, nor the Church, which sponsors it,” the Deseret News reported. “He would never be found cutting corners or compromising principles or living beneath the standards that the Church and the university espoused.”

Former BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco, a convert to the Church who played on the national championship team, called his former coach a “true disciple” of Christ.

“It's not about the wins, not the touchdown passes, not about the tackles players made,” said Brother Bosco. “It's how he treated us as human beings and the impact he had on all our lives to make us better men, better people.”

Coach Edwards was more than a football coach, he added. He was a caring friend who was unashamed of his Church and the priesthood he bore.

Elder Holland also spoke of the special relationship Coach Edwards shared with his wife of 65 years, Patti Edwards.

“We was absolutely crazy about her,” he said. “And he was her slightly rumpled knight in shining armor. As their family came along, that love was showered upon [their children] Ann and John and Jimmy …. Football is what Patti and LaVell did. But disciples of Christ is what they were.”

Coach Edwards, he added, was fueled by his devotion to the gospel.

“LaVell was true to his faith in every setting in which I ever saw him — on the field, off the field, in the locker room, on recruiting trips, holding team prayer … everywhere.”

jswensen@deseretnews.com

The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.