The passing of the legendary LaVell Edwards is almost half a year past, but the path he blazed remains active and his footprints are deep.
This will be the central theme of BYU’s annual football media day that kicks off on Friday at the Broadcast Building and studios of BYUtv.
“We’ll look at LaVell’s influence on a wide variety of coaches he influences both directly and indirectly,” according to Mikel Minor, senior coordinating producer of BYUtv sports and former producer at ESPN.
This angle should prove not only timely but informative, with background and connections some fans of Edwards may never have known.
Kansas City Chiefs head football coach Andy Reid will interrupt a beach house vacation with his wife and fly in to participate in the day of interviews. Reid was an offensive lineman for Edwards’ squad in the late '70s before taking jobs in college then the NFL.
There will be video tributes from other high-profile football coaches in the Edwards’ coaching tree. In person, there are current faculty members who are part of that tree. That includes head coach Kalani Sitake; athletic director Tom Holmoe, a former head coach at the University of California and an assistant at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers; Ed Lamb, former head coach at SUU, assistant at University of San Diego and linebacker for the Cougars; and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback under Edwards.
Also included will be video presentations from former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick; former Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren; current Washington State head coach Mike Leach, author of the Air Raid Attack at Texas Tech; and former USC, San Diego State and Los Angeles Rams head coach Ted Tollner, a former offensive coordinator for Edwards during the Steve Young era.
BYUtv sports anchor Dave McCann will host a one-hour live presentation titled “LaVell Edwards’ Coaching Tree,” which will culminate a full day of media day programming.
If you break down this coaching tree, it is remarkable how it has branched out over the years, from high school ranks to college and the NFL.
Norm Chow, most recently the head coach at Hawaii, left BYU one year before Edwards retired, taking coordinator jobs at North Carolina State, USC, UCLA and Utah, with a stopover with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Along the way, Chow hired and elevated Edwards’ 1996 starting quarterback Steve Sarkisian to help him at USC. Sarkisian, one of the most successful JC transfer QBs BYU ever deployed, later became the head coach at Washington and USC before being elevated to offensive coordinator for Alabama's national championship game against Clemson last year after working as an analyst for the Crimson Tide in the 2016 regular season. He is now the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
Robert Anae, offensive coordinator at BYU under Bronco Mendenhall, followed Mendenhall to the University of Virginia for a similar role. He was an offensive lineman in the Roger French era of Edwards football and a member of the 1984 national championship team.
Charlie Stubbs, a graduate assistant to Edwards in 1984, ended up coaching offense, QBs or receivers at Oregon State, Memphis, UT Martin, UNLV, Alabama, Tulsa, Louisville, Central Missouri and was Nicholls State's head coach in 2014.
The late Fred Whittingham, a former BYU and NFL linebacker, was a member of Edwards’ staff in the late '70s as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator and worked in the NFL. He became part of Ron McBride’s staff in the early '90s, a move that transformed Utah football. His son Kyle, a former BYU team captain, is now Utah's head coach and signed a lucrative contract extension after overseeing the most productive run in program history.
If you dissect the Edwards legacy, you find a revolutionary philosophy on the passing game that became attractive to both college and NFL franchises in the '80s and '90s. Thus, the hiring and deployment of Reid, Holmgren, Billick and Tollner happened at the highest levels of the game.
In the college ranks, two men who studied Edwards’ offensive designs and implemented them into a multitude of programs with remarkable success were Leach and his friend and mentor Hal Mumme.
Chow and Sarkisian’s BYU résumés have been counted upon big-time in their careers because of their ties to Edwards and his success.
Mumme, the current coach at Belhaven University, used his “Air Raid” offenses at Iowa Wesleyan College, Valdosta State and Kentucky followed by jobs at Southwest Louisiana, New Mexico State and McMurry University.
Both Leach and Mumme, best friends, loved the concepts of multiple receivers flooding the secondary, getting running backs involved in pass routes, and maximizing angles and timing to defuse defenses.
In the state of Utah, you see Edwards’ influence on coaches from the northern to southern borders, including former Utah offensive coordinators Chow and Aaron Roderick.
At SUU, assistant head coach Teag Whiting is a former BYU offensive lineman who works with tight ends. His playing days coincided with the end of the Edwards era.
At Utah State, former Aggies athletic director and Oregon State head coach Dave Kragthorpe is a special assistant to head coach Matt Wells. He was one of Edwards’ first hires, the man who assembled the Cougar offensive line before French. Kragthorpe’s son Steve followed him in coaching.
Sitake, a former team captain and running back on Edwards’ last team, specifically tapped into the Edwards’ tree when he went looking for a staff in 2015. Assistant head coach Lamb, Detmer, running backs coach Reno Mahe, offensive line coach Mike Empey, receivers coach Ben Cahoon, tight ends coach Steve Clark, defensive backs coach Jernaro Gilford and linebackers coach Steve Kaufusi all played or coached with Edwards.
On Utah’s current staff, besides the head coach, tight ends coach Fred Whittingham Jr., was a fullback in the backfield with Detmer, and linebackers coach Justin Ena played linebacker in the final years of the Edwards era.
This is only a portion of the web woven by Edwards’ influence on coaches currently spread out across the land.
Friday's celebration will be a worthy tribute to LaVell's unique impact on the game and those who run it at the highest levels.