LaVell Edwards was a giant among college football coaches.
His impact on the game of football at every level is astounding. His legacy on the gridiron will live on for generations to come. But most important of all, his impact for good on the people he associated with has changed the course of many lives and families and will continue to do so long after he's gone.
Here are five reasons why Edwards was great:
1. He put BYU on the map
Before Edwards came to Provo, BYU was a mediocre football program, at best. The Cougars had won just one conference championship, had never been to a bowl game and had an overall record of 173-235-23. BYU had just 14 winning seasons in the 50 years between 1922 and Edwards' debut in 1972.
Name one head football coach who inherited a program like this and the added challenge of being a religious school with a strict honor code and turned it into a national power. Most legendary head football coaches coached at programs that were already big names. Edwards took a small-time Utah school and elevated it to an astounding measure.
His record at BYU speaks for itself: 257 wins, 19 conference titles, 22 bowl games, 31 All-Americans, four Davey O'Brien Trophies, seven Sammy Baugh Trophies, two Outland Trophies, a Heisman Trophy and a national championship.
While other coaches may have better records or more trophies, nobody did more with what he had than Edwards.
2. He revolutionized the forward pass in college football
Edwards didn't invent the forward pass in college football. He revolutionized it.
Most college football offenses, BYU's included, depended almost entirely on a good rushing attack before Edwards came to Provo. Nobody built their offense around a passing attack. BYU's version of the West Coast Offense took the nation by storm and led to big wins for the Cougars, including Jim McMahon's 1980 Holiday Bowl comeback to Ty Detmer's win over then No. 1 Miami.
When you turn on a college football game today and watch teams try to pass the ball rather than running the old wishbone offense, remember Edwards helped bring the forward pass to the national stage. Little wonder Edwards holds a place in the College Football Hall of Fame.
3. He impacted the NFL
His mark on the pros is visible still today. Mike Holmgren was a quarterbacks coach for Edwards before he served as a quarterbacks coach and later the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. He would go on to become the head coach at Green Bay and in Seattle and won a Super Bowl ring.
Brian Billick got his start as a graduate assistant on a career that would lead him to the head coaching job for the Baltimore Ravens and winning the Super Bowl. Andy Reid also started as a graduate assistant and he's still coaching the Kansas City Chiefs. Edwards' coaching tree is truly impressive even at the NFL level.
Steve Young is on just about everybody's list of the best NFL quarterback of all-time. He won three Super Bowl rings and won the league's MVP award twice, not to mention the many other former BYU players who left their mark on the game.
Who can doubt Edwards' impact on the highest levels of football?
4. He elevated the BYU-Utah rivalry
The strong dislike between BYU and Utah predates Edwards by a lot. The Utes absolutely dominated the Cougars as they led the series with a record of 41-8-4 before Edwards took over.
All that changed as BYU would win 19 of Edwards' first 21 games against its arch-rival. But by the time Edwards retired, the Utes elevated their play and made this into one of the more competitive rivalries in college football.
Edwards' success at BYU was one of the best things to happen to Utah in a round about way. The Utes raised their game under Ron McBride to compete with the Cougars and now they are part of the Pac-12.
And if you want to see how to act with class within this heated rivalry, check out Edwards' many appearances with McBride, including this video with KSL.
5. He changed the lives of those who knew him for good
While many of Edward's accomplishments can be quantified in terms of wins, titles and trophies, his impact on the lives of those who played, coached and worked with cannot. When just about anybody talks about their time with Edwards, a common remark is how Edwards made them want to be better people together with his wonderful wife Patti. This couple worked together to improve lives, and not just stats on the football field1 comment on this story
Perhaps former BYU President Dallin H. Oaks said it best: "LaVell's success as a football coach has given pride to the university community. But, more importantly, his success as a leader, mentor and role model has blessed the lives of thousands of young men and women and their families."
Given how many people have been touched by BYU football over the years, Edwards' impact has touched millions of people. While he'll be remembered nationally as a great football coach, it's impossible to measure the good Edwards has brought to this world by simply elevating those around him and making them want to be good people.
And even though Edwards has passed on from this life, his influence will live on for years and generations to come.