Many Utah sports legends have demonstrated their heroism beyond the court or field, whether it be in the arena of the arts, corporate giving, organ donation or support for those diagnosed with cancer.
Some have appeared in TV shows, or promoted themselves on the tube, and some have made it to the big screen. But the true heroes have reached beyond the media attention and proven that following a passion in philanthropy can be just as rewarding as athletic competition, often making a big difference in someone's life. While the actual sport has been the major factor for some, more often it has come after a main career gives way to a different mission in life.
Check out the following list of athletes, coaches and sports business owners who have figured prominently as forces for good in their communities.
Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @wilklogan
Eaton’s 12-year NBA career — exclusively with the Utah Jazz — saw him earn all-star recognition and two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. After his career ended, the 7-foot-4 Park City resident founded the Mark Eaton Standing Tall for Youth organization, which provides sports and outdoor activities for at-risk children in Utah.
Eaton is currently a motivational speaker.
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Gelwix is known for a team standard that mandates no alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Given the success of his teams, those mandates are hard to argue against.
While Gelwix is 404-10 in 35 years as the coach of the Highland High rugby team, his “5 Championship Strategies for Sustainable Success” code, which includes encouraging players to be true to the beliefs of their own faiths, is his greatest contribution. Gelwix’s program was highlighted in the popular film "Forever Strong" in 2008.
Gelwix may be best known in the Rocky Mountain area as the "Getaway Guru" and host of the syndicated "Travel Show" radio broadcast. Gelwix has been an on-air radio talk show host for more than 20 years (12 years at KSL and eight syndicated by Clear Channel Communications). Gelwix serves as CEO of Columbus Travel.
Gelwix has been honored with the "Best of State" award as the best high school coach in the state of Utah; the "Education Service Award" from the Utah Department of Corrections; and the BYU "Outstanding Service" Award.
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Long before Frank Layden made Utah his home, he coached Niagara to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 1970, was an assistant coach with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and was general manager of the New Orleans Jazz. He became the head coach in Utah in 1981, replacing Tom Nissalke.
Layden played a key role signing franchise cornerstones John Stockton and Karl Malone. By the time he moved into the team’s front office during the 1988-1989 season, he had previously been awarded the NBA's Coach of the Year and then was honored as the NBA's Executive of the Year.
When Layden retired from the front office late in 1999, Jazz owner Larry Miller didn’t make a new hire, saying that Layden “couldn’t be replaced.”
Layden and his wife Barbara have also made a significant impact on Salt Lake City’s arts scene. An avid theatergoer in New York City and the Beehive State, Layden has served numerous times on the Pioneer Theatre Company’s board of trustees. In 2002, the couple was honored for their significant philanthropy and volunteerism for the company.
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While Larry Miller is most famous for keeping the Utah Jazz in Utah, he also left his mark on other sports related efforts including the minor league Salt Lake Bees baseball team and Golden Eagles hockey team, the WNBA's Utah Starzz, the world-class Miller Motorsports Park and the mostly self-funded EnergySolutions Arena.
Miller’s touch also reached into the state's business world with a string of megaplex theaters, a raft of automobile dealerships, the Fanzz athletic wear stores and Prestige Financial.
Miller used his corporate success to contribute to a variety of causes and organizations, including a $21 million dollar training center for law enforcement and corrections officers and a significant investment towards a campus for Salt Lake Community College. Both were named in his honor.
He formed Larry H. Miller Charities in November 1995, which focuses on service and corporate giving to youth and children, “with an emphasis on health and education." The foundation has since raised more than $1 million.
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Olsen parlayed a remarkable football career at Utah State University into future careers as a NFL player, a sports commentator and an actor.
Olsen played his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Rams and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 14 of those seasons, a current record shared with Bruce Matthews. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. As an actor, he portrayed Jonathan Garvey on "Little House on the Prairie." After leaving that series, he starred in his own NBC drama, "Father Murphy."
While at USU, Olsen earned All-American honors as a junior and senior and was the winner of the Outland Trophy in 1961. Not known as a national powerhouse, the Aggies finished 10th in both the AP and UPI post-season polls, the only time that has occurred in school history.
After his playing career, Olsen appeared in many Sigma Chi fraternity promotional campaigns as a Life Loyal Sig. He donated one of his bronzed cleats to be used as a traveling trophy during the annual football rivalry game between two Las Vegas high schools.
Olsen often co-hosted the Children's Miracle Network telethons, a humanitarian organization founded in 1983 by Marie Osmond and John Schneider.
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Ostertag polarized Jazz fans with his inconsistent play and lack of conditioning. Though he earned a six-year, $39 million contract for slowing all-star centers like David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA playoffs, he also embarrassed the organization not only with his casual approach on the court, but also by his antics (he once kicked a ball into the stands during a particularly frustrating game). He led the NBA in blocked shot percentage twice before signing with the Sacramento Kings, only to be traded back Utah a year later for one final season.
Ostertag’s heart may have been more generous than his play. In 2002, he donated a kidney to save the life of his sister Amy Hall, who was dying of kidney disease, becoming the first player in NBA history to play after donating an organ. He has since been an advocate for organ donation.
Ostertag received a standing ovation in his final NBA game, on April 19, 2006, against the Golden State Warriors in Salt Lake City.
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Rose has taken the BYU basketball program to lofty heights since taking the reins from former coach Steve Cleveland in 2005. Rose has led the Cougars to seven consecutive 20-plus winning seasons and six straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He was honored as the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year three times before the program moved to the West Coast Conference.
Rose began feeling so lightheaded on a flight from California to Las Vegas in June 2009 that he couldn't sit up. Paramedics took him off the plane and straight to the hospital, where doctors removed a large cancerous tumor that had spread to his spleen from his pancreas. Rose returned to coaching later that year and his periodic checkups show he remains cancer free.
In the spring of 2010, Rose was named a member of the National Coaches vs. Cancer Council. The council assists Coaches vs. Cancer in its efforts to raise awareness and funding. Rose joined a prestigious roster of coaches on the council, including Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams (North Carolina), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Mike Brey (Notre Dame).
In 2012, Cheryl Rose was named to the committee that organizes the annual Fight Cancer in Style Luncheon, an event held at the Final Four to give coaches’ wives the opportunity to learn more about getting involved in the fight against cancer at their schools and in their communities.
Rose was the first coach in Utah to participate in the American Cancer Society’s nationwide Coaches vs. Cancer campaign when he was the head coach at Dixie State (1990-97). Dave and Cheryl Rose and the BYU basketball team have assisted the efforts of the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation for more than a decade. In 2008, Rose received the NABC Game Pillar Award for Service and in 2010 he lobbied before Congress for increased funding for cancer research.
The Roses have plans to build a Hope Lodge, the 32nd in the nation, in Salt Lake City. Hope Lodges are run by the American Cancer Society and offer cancer patients and their caregivers a free, temporary place to stay when their best hope for effective treatment may be in another city.
Visit hopelodgeutah.org to find out how you can support the efforts of the American Cancer Society and bring a Hope Lodge to Salt Lake City.
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Steve Young was often unmatched on the field, using his elusiveness to create plays at the collegiate (BYU) and professional (San Francisco 49ers) levels.
Young succeeded record-setting Jim McMahon as the Cougars' starting quarterback and his senior season in 1983 was spectacular. He passed for 3,902 yards and 33 touchdowns in the regular season, and his 71.3 percent completion percentage set an NCAA single-season record. With Young at quarterback, BYU set an NCAA record by averaging 584 yards of total offense per game.
Young finished his college career with 592 pass completions for 7,733 yards and 56 touchdowns, along with 1,048 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground and is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Young played 14 NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1992 and 1994, the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the time of his retirement, he had the highest passer rating among NFL quarterbacks with at least 1,500 pass attempts, currently ranking third. He is also still ranked highest amongst retired players and won a record six NFL passing titles.
Young now oversees the Forever Young Foundation, which is “focused on passing on hope and resources for the development, strength, and education of children.” The Foundation serves children facing significant physical, emotional and financial challenges by providing them with academic, athletic and therapeutic opportunities currently unavailable to them.
On the docket for the foundation is the 27th Annual Steve Young Classic at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort on March 2.