One of the many places Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin will be missed is the University of Utah football office.

On Tuesday, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham expressed his sorrow at the passing of Elder Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We really considered him a part of the football family," said Whittingham of Elder Wirthlin, 91, who died late Monday.

Whittingham called Elder Wirthlin an "avid supporter and an avid football fan in general."

A former Utah running back in the 1930s, Elder Wirthlin was a constant presence at Ute football games, practices and activities. Whittingham said Elder Wirthlin often addressed the team.

During Urban Meyer's two-year tenure, Elder Wirthlin often traveled with the team and made the trip to the Fiesta Bowl when the Utes played Pittsburgh on Jan. 1, 2005.

Terry Baker, an instructor at the Salt Lake University LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to the school, remembers Elder Wirthlin speaking at a football pep rally.

"An apostle of the Lord who loves football," said Baker, himself a former U. football player and the current adviser for the school's Latter-day Saint Athlete Association. "It doesn't get any better than that."

Baker didn't know Elder Wirthlin personally, though he did teach Elder Wirthlin's daughter at the East High seminary. He did, however, know Meyer well and said the former Utah and current Florida head coach maintained a good friendship with the LDS Church leader.

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"He was so proud of the fact that Elder Wirthlin was a good friend of his," Baker said of Meyer.

Meyer issued a statement Tuesday through the Florida sports information office.

"Elder Wirthlin was a great Ute and a true friend to the University of Utah football program, coaches, players and staff," he said. "We sorely miss his presence and mourn his passing."

Whittingham says he considered Elder Wirthlin a "mentor."

"He was just a genuine person and had a great spirit about him," Whittingham said. "We're going to miss him. I'm going to miss him personally."

Contributing: Dirk Facer. E-mail: