PROVO Derelys Anthony's first reaction when Brigham Young University defensive tackle Pulusila Filiaga slugged a referee during a 1980 football game was atypical: She was not shocked, angry or even annoyed at how the player's hot temper would affect the rest of her beloved Cougars' season.
Instead, she leaped to her feet and cried out with impulsive compassion, "Oh! We've got to do something for that poor young man to let him know we still love him."
Then she marched home, yanked open the pantry and made fudge for the entire football team.
Since then, the now-86-year-old Provoan has delivered homemade sweets to the BYU football office nearly 300 times. Each Monday following a game win or lose Anthony packs 35 pounds of candy into a wicker basket and lugs it to campus, where she sets it out for the players to munch as they please.
Anthony clarified, as she sat waiting outside LaVell Edwards Stadium before a recent game, a blue wig perched crookedly atop her curls, that she doesn't condone violence against referees. It was just that she was "heartbroken" that Filiaga wouldn't be able to play for his family the week after that fateful game against Utah State University.
"I wanted to let him know we loved him even though he did something wrong and to let him know we love the team no matter what goes wrong on the field," she said. "That's why I make candy: I love them forever whether they win or lose."
Anthony delivers the candy anonymously and prefers the team know her only as "The Fudge Lady" a title she earned the first year she showed up with a basket of goodies, before even the receptionist at the football office knew who she was.
Now she's on a first-name basis with Shirley Johnson, who generally meets Anthony outside BYU's Student Athlete Building to collect the treats.
"I've gotten so used to meeting her, if she misses a week I'll call her and see if she's OK," Johnson said.
Players regularly run by Johnson's desk, where she said she keeps Anthony's candy, asking, "Where's the goodies? Where's the candy?"
They keep picking at the sweets until there's nothing but crumbs left.
"You find out by talking to the other players when the candy gets here," said outside linebacker Robert Cook, who stopped by to nab a bite of English toffee the Monday following BYU's victory over Utah. "It's very good. I don't miss getting a piece."
The candy wasn't always so tasty, though. Before she whipped up that first batch of fudge for the team, Anthony said she could count her candymaking experiences on one hand. Looking back, she realized she overcooked the whole first season of fudge by almost double the time.
"It must have been like eating rocks," she said, laughing.
Anthony has now passed the candymaking spoon to her granddaughter, Jordan, who drives from her home in St. George to attend home games. It was getting difficult for Anthony to lift the big copper pan she used to make the fudge, and all the stirring was hard on her aging joints. She said she plans to keep delivering the candy herself, though, until the day she dies.
Jordan Anthony, 22, said she was tickled when her grandmother picked her to carry on the tradition. The two are alike in their passion for football.
"Grandma's already called me three times this week to talk about the bowl game," she said during a phone interview Thursday. "I never would have imagined that we'd be bonding over football, but I think it's so cool."
The Anthonys are making a family trip out of BYU's matchup against UCLA at the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl tonight. Jordan Anthony doesn't doubt that with her grandmother on board, it will be a good time.
"She gets pretty crazy," she said. "She doesn't let anyone sit down if anything's going on. I don't know how she has so much energy."
Even a long day of packing and car trouble Thursday couldn't put a damper on Derelys Anthony's exuberant game-day anticipation."Watch the game, everybody," she said. "We're going to win. Oh, honey, how could we help it?"
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