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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Jason Buck, Vai Sikahema and Jim Herrmann walk into the memorial to honor former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards at a memorial service at the Provo Convention Center on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.

PROVO — Tom Holmoe had just one crack at it. It had to be a perfect trajectory for a unique orbit, the organizing of a rendezvous of living matter that could be at one spot at one time and then never happen again.

By all accounts, BYU’s athletic director threaded the needle. LaVell Edwards could die just one time. His players would return to the site of their connection with him for this physical soliloquy but once. Then the moment would be gone.

On Friday, the lights above LaVell Edwards Stadium shined bright into the night while inside, under the stands, a reunion of former players and coaches of the departed BYU football coach became a celebratory gathering that lasted until the early hours of the next day.

When Patti Edwards took to the microphone, the crowded room filled with a rambunctious assembly turned to absolute silence. You could hear a pin drop, players say.

The now widowed matriarch of Cougar football only spoke a few words, according to players gathered for the private gathering, but her message was clear. She declared she and LaVell always considered these men part of their actual family and her husband loved them so much; that it was always more about life than football, according to Paul Gustavson, an offensive lineman from the early ’70s.

Holmoe told the group he had to put the Friday reunion together because the bittersweet timing of the gathering would be a once in a lifetime reunion. “I don’t know if anyone will ever be able to gather this group together again,” said Gustavson.

Nick Stewart, father of former QB Christian Stewart who came as a guest of former QB Royce Bybee, a backup to Jim McMahon and Marc Wilson, commented, “I’ve been to these player reunions before and they bring out about 25 percent of the “who’s who” of Cougar football, but this one had almost all of them, the entire cast.”

It was a cornucopia of emotions; friendships forged but fractured by time and distance and geographic direction.

Many of these grown men, now grandfathers, hadn’t seen teammates since the day they received their varsity blankets on graduation day. It was a feast of back-slapping, hugs, tears and tales of yesteryear.

It was a gathering Edwards could never have created while alive. But his death brought mandatory airline tickets, interrupted calendars and changed plans for an army of former Cougars.

“Only LaVell’s death could have brought this great and very diverse group back together in one spot,” said Stewart. “It was clear everyone present was making the most of it." The reminiscing went on and on and on, just as it would in any great reunion, and Bybee saw friends he hadn’t seen since college. “We left before 11 p.m., and 80 percent of those in attendance were still there,” said Stewart.

The group included players from the ’60s and every decade since. It included onetime NCAA reception leader Jay Miller, Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Marc Wilson and Ty Detmer. It brought Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who just happened to have a bye week from the NFL playoffs, retired offensive guru and former Hawaii head coach Norm Chow and current Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall and members of his staff. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, his brothers Cary and Fred and some members of his Ute staff were there.

It included some of the best cornerbacks in school history, personalities like Rodney Rice and Rodney Thomas and QB John Walsh. There were close to 600 people gathered in the Varsity Club Room under the west stands, all with one purpose: to remember and indulge in football lore.

In true LaVell Edwards style, there was lots of laughter, storytelling, teasing and jokes. It included former heroic icons of BYU football who had now lost most of the hair atop faces featuring smiles and tears that would not go away.

Current BYU head coach Kalani Sitake spoke as part of the short program after Patti Edwards.

According to those present, Sitake quoted Benjamin Franklin who said, “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable and those that move.”

Sitake said many BYU players came to college as guys who were immovable and Edwards, through his love, example and personality got them to be movable and then they became movers in life, in the community, in their faith and in their families.

Sitake said many players came to Edwards broken and he molded them into men who became whole, people who may not have seen in themselves what Edwards saw all along.

Holmoe said all BYU players who had been coached by Edwards and his successors Gary Crowton and Bronco Mendenhall were part of the same family, the family of Edwards and a BYU brand he’d created and tended.

So, sandwiched in between a public memorial Friday and a private funeral service Saturday morning, was this closed-door event, created by circumstance. It was wall-to-wall, standing room only.

It was history relived, faces reappeared, personalities bound forever through the relationship they had with a departed legend. For those present, it was described as the perfect release, the ideal corporal scrapbook of flesh and blood, a living reverence of soldiers for an iconic general no longer in their midst.

On this night, far but not too big a distance from the turf and lights outside, Holmoe returned this pick for the ultimate six.

Here is a list of BYU players, coaches and staff who gathered Friday night for a reunion at LaVell Edwards Stadium. This list may not be complete, but is assembled by people who attended.

Tom Holmoe

Kalani Sitake

Andy Reid

Bronco Mendenhall

Garett Tujague

Kyle Whittingham

Ty Detmer

Ed Lamb

Reno Mahe

Steve Kaufusi

Norm Chow

Leon White

Adam Haysbert

Rodney Rice

Scott Giles

Mike Empey

Freddie Whittingham

Will Snowden

Ken Schmidt

Blaine Fowler

Hans Olsen

Bob Jensen

Royce Bybee

Waymon Hamilton

Marc Lyons

Matt Johnson

Ricky Frank

Tyler Anderson

Jason Chaffetz

Bryan Kehl

Alan Boardman

Courtney Smith

Tom Toolson

Eli Herring

Mark Atuaia

Terry McEwen

Henry Bloomfield

Ivan Marchello

Gregg Pitts

Roy Ward

Robert Sanouke

Jeff Blanc

Craig Carlson

Chuck Carlson

Eric Drage

Tim Hanshaw

Ryan Hancock

John Tucker

Steve Haymond

Kirk Holle

Matt Bellini

Mark Bellini

Spencer Reid

Rob Morris

David Neff

Layne Bates

Rodney Rice

Paul Shoemaker

Itula Mili

Chad Lewis

Jack Damuni

Truman Child

Manase Tonga

Louis Wong

Trevor Matich

Jim McMahon

Eddie Stinnett

Dustin Rykert

Jim Freeland

Val Hale

Chris Hale

Brandon Doman

Kevin Doman

Bryce Doman

Glen Tuckett

Kevin Nicholl

Ty Mattingly

Tom Ramage

Jim Paronto

Greg Croshaw

Patrick Mitchell

Justin Ena

Cory Ramage

Dave Allphin

Larry Harmer

Curt Cannon

Ben Cahoon

Setema Gali

Carlos Nuno

Andrew Rich

Chris Pella

Dallas Reynolds

Matt Reynolds

Lance Reynolds

Toby Christensen

Cory Cook

Tim Nowatzke

Vic Tarleton

Jim Herrmann

Gary Sheide

Lee Johnson

Roger Gourley

George Gourley

Robbie Bosco

Vai Sikahema

Chuck Cutler

Shawn Knight

Alema Fitisemanu

Scott Brumfield

Steve Lindsley

Marv Allen

Korey Rasmussen

Mike Lacey

Andy Boyce

Dan Plater

Blair Buswell

Steve Young

John Walsh

Jason Buck

Jay Miller

Chris Edwards

Brad Clark

Ted Tollner

Eldon Fortie

Margin Hooks

Cary Whittingham

Brady Whittingham

Mike Chronister

Keith Lever

Sean Covey

Chris Germann

Rondo Fehlberg

Sim Tiatia

Jason Cooper

Bob Stevens

Paul Gustavson

Keith Rivera

Steve Price

Earl Kauffman

Jim Edwards

Eddie Green

Pat Cabulagan

Richards Hobbs

Glen Kozlowski

Brian Hazelgren

Jeff Harris

Riley Nelson

Ralph Zobell

Mick Hill

Steve Pincock

Shirley Johnson

Mike Pistorious

Chris Farasopholus

Nick Eyre

Marc Wilson

Steve Clements

Tevita Ofahengaue

George Curtis

Bruce Jenne

Kelly Smith

Scott Collie

Blake Murdock

Jeff Nilsson

John Vander Wouden

Jason Walker

Tyler Nelson

Todd Lewis

Jason Campbell

Donnie Atuiaa

Kevin Nicoll

Jon Tucker

Brad Oates

Ken Anderson

Scott Robinson

David Henderson

David Mills

Eddie Keele

Danny Hansen

Chris Edwards

Dave McKee

Matthew Edwards

Richard Hobbs

Brian Hansen

Steve Jones

Joe Evans

Brian McDonald

Alan Hyatt

Robert Jones

Gary Samples

Brandon Condie

Scott Phillips

Gary Stoddard

Steven Draeger

Kevin Mitchell

Daniel Major

Jan VandeMerwe

Bob Stephens

Ryan Keele

Kyle Roberts

John Dowell

Guy Hale

Johnny Slavens

Christopher Turpin

Charlie Peterson

Jeff Couch

Brandon Flint

Mark Walker

David King

Andrew Fales

Richard Kozlowski

Joe Liljenquist

Aaron Hutchins

David Miles

Todd Marriott

Corey Pace

Derik Stevenson

Craig Leishman

Jason Strickland

Nate Soelberg

Joe Herrick

Jason Andersen

William Marriott

Cody Fonnesbeck

Darren Handley

Logan Deans

Brad Hunter

Darrin Lambert

Ted Nelson

Hyrum Summers

Logan Hunter

Alema Harrington

Isaac Herring

Ryan Denney

Shawn McLeod

Justin Yarro

Robert Allphin

Danny Frazier

Desmond Lomax

Austin McNaughton

Teag Whiting

Tacoma Fontaine

Steve Peterson

Colby Bockwoldt

Josh Lowe

Richard Kozlowski

Blake Jensen

Mike Preston

Brian Sanders

George Harris

Tim Mahoney

Jon Burbidge

Lance Lindley

Barry Lamb

David Clark

Bill Bryant

Nathan Meikle

Jimmy Edwards

Lou Andrus

Stan Larson

Lloyd Eldredge

Bob Kittell

Gary Webster

Ted Dawson

Matt Schneck

Scott Jackson

Brandon Stephens

Soren Halladay

Corey Lindley

Paul Peterson

Ross Varner

Paul Clifford

Preston Miller

Dick Legas

Steve Miller

Regan Andrews

Lennon Ledbetter

Rodney Wilkerson

Shane Shumway

Jason Campbell

Eric Thomas

Jimmy Richards

Dustin Johnson

Todd Shell

Glen Titensor

Robert Davis

Fotu Katoa

Byron Frisch

Rex Burningham

Ken Wilks

Marty Lloyd

Kyle Tew

TJ Sitake

Dan Gerber

Ifo Pili

Rich Herlin

David Tuckett

Ryan Slater

Frank Christianson

Marshall Pettit

Neil Balholm

Margin Hooks

Robert Salazar

Eric Bergeson

Glen Gardner

Curg Belcher

Max Huber

Garen Jeppesen

Timothy Clark

Kerry Edwards

Kyle Wilson

Dean Paynter

Chris Conners

Dennis Carlston

Conrad Roberson

Jeff Wilcox

Ben Archibald

David Hoggan

Scott Pettis

Houston Reynolds

Royal Erickson

Pam Aupiu (wife of David, deceased)

Kelly Harris

John Moeaki

Matt Zundel

Jim Phillips

Keith McCullough

Scott Moberly

Doug Stone

Larry Kiser

Jeff Holtry

Tim McKeon

Randy Tidwell

Bret Engemann

Troy Long

Tau Harrington

Gorm Klungervik

Jay McDonald