I said to myself, ‘Grow up, suck it up and be a coach.’ At that moment, I promised that before I left that region I would beat Lew Monsen. —Paul Tidwell
OREM — These days, Paul Tidwell is no longer roaming the sidelines coaching football.
Now he serves as a student-athlete welfare coordinator at BYU, working with athletes throughout the Cougar athletics program.
His impact, though, is still felt in the football world, and Tidwell was honored with the Contribution to Amateur Football Award during the recent 24th annual banquet for the Utah chapter of the National Football Foundation at UVU’s UCCU Center.
“Yes, there’s parts of coaching that I really miss,” Tidwell told the banquet crowd last Tuesday, which included 12 Utah high school football players who were recognized as scholar-leader athletes.
He misses the relationships cultivated during his nearly four decades as a coach — including 15 as an assistant at BYU, 11 years at Snow College and six years as a high school coach — and he even misses the pressures and challenges of the profession.
The coaching life brought him experiences and life lessons. During the banquet, Tidwell — who prepped at Ogden High and played fullback at Utah State in the mid-1970s — shared one such experience, a lopsided loss, that’s made a lasting impression.
The story began when Tidwell took over as head coach of the Richfield High football program in 1978 and took his team to Millard. The Eagles that year were coached by the late Lew Monsen, a longtime prep coach who was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
The final result that night wasn’t pretty.
“They had a great team. They had a quarterback that signed with BYU that year, they had a wide receiver that was outstanding and we got beat 73-3,” Tidwell said.
He recalled, as a young coach just out of college in his early 20s, walking across the field to meet Monsen for the first time.
“He says, ‘Coach, I really didn’t mean to run the score up on ya.’ I said to myself a few cuss words under my breath,” Tidwell said. “And I said, ‘You were throwing bombs in the fourth quarter. Don’t tell me you didn’t try to run the score up on me.’ ”
Tidwell went back to the locker room, sat on the old cement stairs outside the locker room and buried his head in his hands “feeling sorry for myself.”
“These kids are counting on me, and we just got beat 73-3,” he thought.
Then, determination set in.
“I said to myself, ‘Grow up, suck it up and be a coach.’ At that moment, I promised that before I left that region I would beat Lew Monsen,” Tidwell said.
That would still take years, and a move to a different school. Tidwell received a degree in business education in 1979 from Southern Utah, then accepted the head coaching position at North Sanpete High that same year.
“The next four years, Lew Monsen kicked my tail,” he said.
“My fifth year at North Sanpete, we beat him 17-7 in a rainstorm in the old stadium at North Sanpete where they still had the silver coverings over the light bulbs that you screw in. The rain was hitting those silver (coverings), bulbs were popping and we could barely see, but we beat him 17-7,” Tidwell said.
That next year, he was hired as an assistant at Snow College — the beginning of his 32 years as a college coach, including seven as the head coach at Snow.
“I actually coached several of Lew’s boys at Snow College and we became very good friends. But he about drove me out of business,” Tidwell said.
“We have challenges. We have things to overcome. Just remember that there are going to be some trials and that some things don’t work out.”
Another lopsided score, strangely enough, played a role in what Tidwell considers his favorite game.
Tidwell’s final game as a BYU coach came when the Cougars faced in-state rival Utah in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl and fell behind 35-0 in the first quarter after turning the ball over on their first five possessions.
“Our defense would come off the field and (it was like) I would kneel down in front of the linebackers and I would say, ‘We need to do this and this.’ And then somebody would start yelling, ‘Defense, you’re up!’,” he said.
“Down 35-0 in the first quarter, how could that be my most favorite game?”
It’s because, as he put it, “our kids, they made a game of it.”
BYU scored a touchdown just before halftime to finally get on the board. The Cougar offense offense tacked on another touchdown in the third quarter before adding two more in the fourth, and the BYU defense kept the Utes out of scoring range.
While BYU rallied to make it a single possession game, Utah still prevailed 35-28.
Still, that game left its mark with the longtime coach.
“I love that game because I love how our kids fought," Tidwell said. "They never, ever, ever gave up. And that taught me a lesson: enjoy your journey, young men. Enjoy your journey, and grasp on to people that can help you.”