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Remembering Coach LaVell Edwards through funerals, reunion

Several may not have known Tacoma Fontaine, left, pictured with Donny Atuaia and Margin Hooks at last January's reunion for players coached by LaVell Edwards. His story is among the many tributes to the late coach. (Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

Story originally published in BYU football Gameday Guide vs. Portland State, August 26, 2017


A secret I helped keep for over 40 years was the first name of R. LaVell Edwards, but it became more public last January when his obituary was published.

Reuben was his first given name, but he preferred LaVell.

Many shared teachings and memories about the revered late coach LaVell Edwards last January after his funeral and reunion for the over 1,000 players he coached at BYU.

The gathering was a veritable Who’s Who among BYU football players influenced by Edwards, who attended what could be called a reunion of most of the honorary pallbearers for Edwards’ funeral.  That is what Edwards’ wife Patti asked , for “all of his former assistant coaches and all of the players who became his sons.”

At one of the two funerals, LaVell’s daughter Ann related advice her mother Patti received from a relative in her hometown of Big Piney, Wyoming as she finalized plans to attend Utah State where she would meet and marry LaVell.

"Sis, I hate to send you down to Utah where you'll probably marry one of those damn Mormon boys—a LaVar, LaMar, LaDell, LaVell or Garth.”

A couple of the more intriguing stories from former players at that reunion who were  coached by Edwards are those of a wide receiver named Tacoma Fontaine and Cotton Bowl nose guard Henry Bloomfield.

Fontaine said he would have driven from anywhere to pay respects to a coach who helped him 20 years ago.

Now coaching football at Desert Hills High School in Las Vegas, Fontaine told of how Edwards helped him as a wide-eyed Texas transfer in the foreign environment of Provo. Fontaine encountered difficulties at BYU, but Edwards stood by him and contacted a coaching friend at what is now known as Missouri State. Fontaine played his final two years at Southwest Missouri State before going on the USFL.

Bloomfield related that he sat across from LaVell on the fourth of five recruiting visits as the veteran coached slid a letter of intent across the desk for him to sign on his exit interview. The transfer from Dixie Junior College visited BYU with a beard and long, braided hair as a formality in 1994, intending to sign with Texas A&M on his fifth visit and slid the letter unsigned back to LaVell with that explanation.

LaVell told Bloomfield that wasn’t what his sources had told him and dialed on the phone, explaining Henry’s answer to the man on the other end of the line.  Then LaVell handed the phone to Henry, who heard his father say, “I told LaVell you were coming.” LaVell slid the letter back across his desk and Bloomfield signed out of respect to his father.

One of the “oldest” players at last January’s reunion was Tom Toolson, a tight end of the 1974 Fiesta Bowl team. Toolson isn’t as well-known as his younger brother, former BYU basketball star and assistant coach Andy Toolson. The elder Toolson was among the first of Edwards’ players to serve a mission in the 1970s and is now a dentist like his father and lives in Modesto, California.

Several players could not attend the funerals or reunion, including Tom Bell, Orrin Olsen and Jamal Willis. Bell was on assignment for the State Department in Europe and could not get back in time for the funeral. Olsen was out of town during that time and is currently serving a mission with his wife Sandy in Auburn, Washington. Willis did attend the viewing, speaking with Patti before the funeral, then flew out of town for his daughter’s national cheer competition.

Here’s a list of former players who played for Coach Edwards, grouped by their era, who were in attendance at either his funerals or last January’s reunion

Jeff Blanc, RB, 73-76
Chuck Carlson,  C, 1974-76
Dave Clark, 72
John Dowell, OG, 76
Steve Draeger, LB, 72
George Gourley, DB, 71-72
Roger Gourley, FB, 72-77
Paul Gustavson, C, 72-73
Dan Hansen, DB, 68-72
George Harris, WR, 73-77
Jeff Harris, DE, 73-78
Kelly Harris, OL, 74-77
Logan Hunter, WR, 71-72
Mitch Jensen, DB, 74
Tim Mahoney, FB, 73
Terry McEwen, QB, 71-77
Jay Miller, WR, 73-76
Blake Murdock, LB, 74-76
Brad Oates, OT, 73-75
Dean Paynter, OT, 74
Mike Pistorius, TE, 71-73
Mike Preston, LB, 70-73
Steve Price, OT, 71-73
Lance Reynolds, Ot, 73-77
Keith Rivera, DE, 71-74
Gary Sheide, QB, 73-74
Gary Stoddard, OG, 73-77
Dave Terry, QB, 70-73
Tom Toolson, TE, 73-74
Jan Van de Merwe, OT, 75-77
John Van Der Wouden, WR, 74-77
Ross Varner, DE, 74-78
Roy Ward, FB, 75-77

Latter 70-Early 80s
Marv Allen, LB, 78-84
Robert Anae, OL, 80-84
Regan Andrews, C, 81-83
Neil Balholm, WR, 79-82
Mark Bellini, WR, 82-86
Robbie Bosco, QB, 81-85
Rex Burningham, OL, 82-83
Blair Buswell, RB, 81
Royce Bybee, QB 78-80
Pat Cabulagan, DB, 79-83
Craig Christensen, C, 74-78
Mike Chronister, WR, 76-78
Scott Collie, WR, 78-82
Jimmy Edwards, WR, 81-86
Lloyd Eldredge, OL, 76-82
Nick Eyre, OL, 76-80
Brandon Flint, DE, 80-83
Mark Flammer, QB, 76-78
Ricky Frank, LB-TE, 80-84
Danny Frazier, LB, 78-79
Waymon Hamilton, RB, 80-83
Brian Hansen, LB, 76-82
Danny Hansen, OG, 76-79
Steve Haymond, DB, 81-84
Adam Haysbert, WR, 80-84
Brian Hazelgren, DB, 80-84
Richard Herlin, TE, 76-77
Jim Hermann, DE, 80-84
Dave Hoggan, DE, 81
Tom Holmoe, DB, 78-82
Blake Jensen, DB, 81-83
Lee Johnson, K-P, 80-84
Glen Kozlowski, WR, 81-85
Mike Lacey, TE, 75-81
Stan Larson, TE, 81-84
Lennon Ledbetter, WR, 75-81
Lance Lindley, TE, 79-85
Trevor Matich, C, 79-84
Keith McCullough, OT, 80-85
Jay McDonald, LB, 81-85
Dave McKee, DB, 76-81
Jim McMahon, QB, 77-81
Bill McNabb, RB, 81-83
Steve Miller, OG, 75-76
David Mills, TE, 79-84
Mike Morgan, DE, 78-82
David Neff, LB, 81-84
Jeff Nilsson, WR, 74-79
Corey Pace, C, 77-81
Scott Pettis, RB, 79-82
Scott Phillips, RB, 77-80
Dan Plater, WR, 78-81
John Ramage, LB, 76-81
Korey Rasmussen, DB, 80-86
Andy Reid, OT, 78-80
Bill Ring, RB, 77-78
Scott Robinson, OT, 81-85
Pete Rossi, 81-84
Rob Salazar, DB, 79-83
Robert Saunooke, C, 82-88
Todd Shell, LB, 80-83
Vai Sikahema, RB, 80-85
Kelly Smith, RB, 80-85
Eddie Stinnett, RB, 82-83
Doug Stromberg, DT, 76-79
Randy Tidwell, OG, 78-79
Glen Titensor, DE, 78-80
Mark Walker, LB, 79-81
Gary Webster, K, 84-85
Leon White, LB, 81-85
Cary Whittingham, LB, 81-85
Kyle Whittingham, LB, 78-81
Jeff Wilcox, DB, 82-86
Marc Wilson, QB, 75-79
Louis Wong, OG, 81-84
Steve Young, QB, 80-83

Latter 80-Early 90
Latter 80s-Early 90s
Tyler Anderson, WR, 88-93
Layne Bates, QB, 88-89
Matt Bellini, WR, 86-90
Eric Bergeson, DB, 88-89
Andy Boyce, WR, 84-90
Bill Bryant, LB, 86-90
Jason Buck, DL, 85-86
Jason Chaffetz, K, 85-89
Brad Clark, DB, 86-92
Tim Clark, DL, 82-88
Chris Conners, NG, 90-91
Jason Cooper, WR, 89-95
Sean Covey, QB, 83-89
Chuck Cutler, WR, 85-88
Bob Davis, WR, 86-90
Ted Dawson, LB, 87-93
Ty Detmer, QB, 87-91
Bryce Doman, WR, 88-94
Kevin Doman, WR, 93-86
Eric Drage, WR, 89-93
Jim Edwards, OL, 89-94
Mike Empey, OL, 87-93
Joe Evans, QB, 90-91
Alema Fitesemanu, LB, 84-90
Chris Germann, K, 84-87
Eddie Green, DT, 86-90
Ryan Hancock, QB, 90-92
Darren Handley, TE, 85-88
Tim Hanshaw, OG, 88-94
Alema Harrisngton, FB, 84-88
Tau Harrington, DB, 84-90
Dave Henderson, DB, 88-91
Joe Herrick, K-P, 90-93
Eli Herring, OT, 87-94
Richard Hobbs, LB, 81-87
Kirk Holle, WR, 84-90
Brad Hunter, DT-P, 86-92
Bruce Jenne, DS, 88-92
Bob Jensen, QB, 85-87
Garen Jeppesen, WR, 86-88
Fotu Katoa, TE, 86-90
Earl Kauffman, K-P, 88-91
Steve Kaufusi, DL, 85-87

David King, OG, 83-86
Shawn Knight, DT, 82-86
Darren Lambert, DB, 86-87
Keith Lever, K, 85-90
Steve Lindsley, QB, 84-86
Troy Long, DB, 85-88
Ivan Marchello, DB, 88-89
Todd Marriott, LB, 88
Ty Mattingly, DE, 84-86
John Mausia, LB, 89
David Miles, WR, 83-87
Itula Mili, TE, 91-96
Preston Miller, LB, 93
Brian Mitchell, DB, 87-90
Patrick Mitchell, DB, 90-94
Scott Moberly, DT, 90
John Moeaki, LB, 94
Larry Moeaki, OL, 96
Kevin Nicoll, LB, 90-92
Tim Nowatzke, WR, 90-94
Greg Pitts, DT, 90-94
Stan Raass, LB, 94-95
Spencer Reid, LB, 94-97
Rodney Rice, DB, 86-88
Conrad Roberson, TE, 87
Kyle Roberts, DB, 87-93
Matt Schneck, WR, 92
Shane Shumway, DB, 84-86
Chris Smith, TE, 87-90
Robert Stephens, C, 87-90
Doug Stone, DT, 87-92
Vic Tarleton, DB, 92-93
Rodney Thomas, DB, 84-87
Sim Tiatia, RB, 86-90
Garett Tujague, OG, 89-91
John Walsh, QB, 92-94
Fred Whittingham, FB, 84-89
Justin Yarro, DE, 91-94
Matt Zundel, TE, 88-91

Jason Anderson, DB, 93-97
Ben Archibald, OL, 96-02
Donnie Atuaia, RB, 95-99
Mark Atuaia, RB, 91-96
Jason Behunin, OL, 92-94
Henry Bloomfield, DL, 95-96
Alan Boardman, P, 93-96
Colby Bockwoldt, LB, 99-03
Scott Brumfield, OL, 90-92
Ben Cahoon, WR, 95-97
Jason Campbell, DB, 95
Curt Cannon, OL, 94-97
Truman Child, K, 92
Toby Christensen, WR, 00-03
Frank Christensen, DB, 91-93
Steve Clements, QB, 90-94
Brandon Condie, TE, 96-97
Ben Cook, DB, 95-97
Cory Cook, DB, 93-94
Jack Damuni, DB, 93-94
Ryan Denney, DE, 97-01
Brandon Doman, QB, 98-01
Cliff Doman, WR, 95-99
Justin Ena, LB, 97-01
Bret Engemann, QB, 99-02
Andrew Fales, LB, 98-00
Tacoma Fontaine, WR, 98
Kalani Fitita Sitake, RB, 94-00
Jim Freeland, LB, 94-95
Byron Frisch, DL, 95-99
Setema Gali, DE, 94-00
Dan Gerber, LB, 92-95
Scott Scott Giles, LB, 90-91
Phil Giordano, DB, 94-97
Chris Hale, DB, 99-05
Soren Halladay, WR, 94-01
Larry Harmer, DT, 93-95
Isaac Herring, OL, 98-02
Jeff Holtry, LB, 98-2000
Margin Hooks, WR, 96-00
Aaron Hutchins, DE, 95-96
Scott Jackson, OL, 97-03
Dustin Johnson, TE 91-98

Matt Johnson, OL, 97-99
Eddie Keele, 00-06
Ed Lamb, DE, 94-96
Todd Lewis, LB, 96
Desmond Lomax, RB, 93-97
Josh Lowe, LB, 94-00
Reno Mahe, WR, 98-02
Brian McDonald, RB, 00-01
Rob Morris, LB, 93-99
Carlos Nuno, TE, 97-99
Tevita Ofahengaue, TE, 97-00
Hans Olsen, DT, 96-00
Charlie Peterson, QB, 95-01
Paul Peterson, RB, 98-01
Marshall Pettit, RB, 99
Ifo Pili, DL, 97-03
Cory Ramage, OL, 97-00
Gabe Reid, TE, 99-02
Jimmy Richards, C, 93-99
Aaron Roderick, WR, 96-98
Dustin Rykert, OL, 98-02
Brian Sanders, 99-05
Bill Schoepflin, DB, 97-01
Paul Shoemaker, QB, 92-98
Kalani Sitake, RB, 94-00
T.J. Sitake, DL, 98-05
Ryan Slater, WR, 00-03
Johnny Slavens, DB, 97-98
Courtney Smith, 95-96
Will Snowden, RB, 96-00
Sathan Soelberg, DB, 99-05
Luke Staley, RB, 99-01
Brandon Stephens, OL, 97-03
Chris Stevens, LB, 98-03
Derik Stevenson, LB, 92-98
Hyrum Summers, DL, 96-98
Jason Walker, DB, 94-98
Teague Whiting, OL, 99-01
Rod Wilkerson, WR, 00-04

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