Coach Lance Reynolds announced to the team after the Poinsettia Bowl victory that he is stepping away from coaching after three decades on the sidelines. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Reprinted from Cougar Illustrated, Nov. 18, 1984
By Les Carroll
The tall, muscle-ridden body doesn't look like one that would resemble the typical running back coach. In fact, at 6-3, 285 pounds, former BYU All-American offensive lineman Lance Reynolds is almost big enough to be two running backs.
But despite spending most of his football career associated with the offensive line, Reynolds feels his new job as BYU running back coach is an opportunity to use the knowledge of football that he has acquired through four years of playing on the collegiate level, one year as a pro, and four previous years of coaching.
"Even though I was an offensive lineman as a player, I've always enjoyed working with running backs, ever since I started doing it at Ricks College," explains Reynolds, in a soft, gentle voice that doesn't seem to quite fit the massive muscular body. "It was a challenge at first and still is for that matter. But I enjoy coaching no matter what group of players I am working with."
Reynolds welcomes the challenge of trying to improve the play of three talented and experienced backs in Casey Tiumalu, Waymon Hamilton, and Eddie Stinnett. In addition, he works hard with the young running backs, helping them perfect skills like blocking and pass catching, which are essential complements to their outstanding running skills.
"There are always things that we can teach our players, no matter how good they are. Steve Young is the best quarterback in college football, but he'll be the first to admit that some parts of his game could use polishing. That doesn't mean that he is not already a great player.
"It's the same with the running backs. They are already outstanding players, but if we are going to beat the best teams in the country, every player on the team has to improve each day."
Running back Eddie Stinnett, whose natural talent of running the football is probably something no coach can teach, is one player who has improved greatly in other aspects of the game with the help of Reynolds.
"When I came into practice at the beginning of this season, Coach Reynolds helped me a lot with my blocking," says the Cougar speedster. "That wasn't one of the better parts of my game, but coach Reynolds has helped me to improve. Coach Reynolds is the type of guy that is always going to get the job done no matter what he is doing."
Reynolds elaborates on Stinnett's point about having a well-rounded player in the backfield. "When we go out and recruit a running back, we recruit him almost entirely on his ability to run with the football. That's a God-riven talent that cannot be coached into a kid. But we teach them how to block, run pass routes, and other essentials. That's the importance of my job."
Coach LaVell Edwards is not only pleased to have Reynolds back in Provo, but impressed with the young coach's ability. Athletic Director Glen Tuckett calls Reynolds "one of the finest young minds in college football."
Edwards says: "Of all the players we've had here that are in coaching, Lance is probably one of the brightest prospects. He had a good knowledge of the game, and seems to build a lot of confidence into the players that he works with."
Reynolds has a very high mutual respect for Edwards, also as well as for each of the assistant coaches on the Cougar staff.
"I think Coach Edwards is one of the easiest people I've ever had to work for. He's just a good man, the kind of person you want to work hard for," Reynolds says. "The other coaches on our staff are outstanding too. I think when it comes to innovation and creativity, there isn't a better offensive staff in the country."
As a member of that offensive staff, Reynolds plays a very important role in its success, and the success of the BYU team. During games he sits in the pressbox with offensive coordinator Norm Chow and several other assistants. Reynolds and the others constantly feed information to Chow, who in turn calls the offensive plays from the pressbox. Judging by the results, it's obvious that Chow has been right most of the time, and that the work of Reynolds and his pressbox colleagues is paying off.
Reynolds has learned the game of football rapidly in his few years of playing and coaching. But it wasn't too many years ago when football (playing) was not on his list of fund things to do.
"I didn't know much about football as a kid," he admits. "I didn't watch it much on television, so I didn't know the things the kids know today."
But when he and his buddies decided to go out for football in ninth grade, Reynolds learned quickly, although it was in a somewhat embarrassing way initially.
"I was always big for my age so when I went out for football the coach just automatically told me to go play tackle. Well, I didn't know where the tackle position was, or what a tackle was for that matter. So he told me to get out of the way an he put another kid at tackle."
But that didn't stop Reynolds from making the team, as a ninth grader, and eventually as a star performer, at, appropriately enough, Sale Lake's Granit High School. Before his prep career had come to a close, many colleges were actively recruiting him. He had decided that he would stay real close to home, so only looked into Utah, Utah State, and BYU. But when California contacted him, Reynolds decided to take out an out-of-state recruiting trip.
"I was really impressed with Berkeley, so I narrowed my choices down to BYU and California. I was real close to going to Cal, but decided on BYU."
Every since that decision to attend BYU, obligations of all kinds have taken Reynolds away from Provo. But it seems that no matter how many times he leaves, he always comes back to Utah Valley and the BYU football program.
The first interruption of his Provo residency was to serve an LDS mission to Washington. He came back two years later to be an All-American. Then it was off to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and later the Philadelphia Eagles. But when a recurring knee injury prematurely ended a promising professional career, he returned once again to Prove, this time to serve as a graduate assistant.
"It was disappointing to see that a pro career was not going to work out. But my knee would never get back to full strength, and that was something I just had to accept. I don't miss playing football that much, but at the time it was scary because I did not have the financial security that a professional career offers. When you have a family, that can really make you worry."
After serving as a graduate assistant for two years, Reynolds landed his first full-time coaching job at Snow College. The next season, 1982, he was appointed offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Ricks College. After a season in Rexburg, he returned once again to Provo, and became a regular member of the BYU staff. He hopes this stay in Provo will be a lengthy one, not for himself, but for his wife and young family.
"The coaching profession is tough, but it's a lot tougher on wives and families that on the coaches," Reynolds explains. "Our family has moved about 15 times since my wife and I have been married. We stayed in Rexburg a year, and that was the longest that we've ever been in the same house. It's not so tough on me because I love what I'm doing and am always involved, but it's tough on families. I think my wife and the other wives deserve a lot of credit, because they always make a lot of sacrifices."
But patience and understanding is something Leslie Reynolds obviously has a lot of. She and Lance met when he was playing football at BYU and her family moved into his home LDS ward in Salt Lake City. The two were engaged to be married when Lance decided to serve a mission, something that athletes do a lot more of now than they did in 1974, when Lance Reynolds put aside a promising football career. Upon his return they were married and are now the parents of two children, Brittany 6, and Lance Jr., 3.
"Going on a mission is one of the toughest things I ever had to make a decision about," says Reynolds. "I could have easily not gone, and that would have been accepted then. But it was something I just could not seem to put aside at the time.
"The real problem for me was I thought going on a mission meant deciding between football and a mission. But when I realized that I could do both (a principle that Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve taught Reynolds), it was not a hard decision at all. But it took awhile to get confidence that I was doing the right thing."
Even after getting into the mission field Reynolds worried taht his football career might suffer. But when he had been out just a few months, and President Spencer W. Kimball said that 'every young man should serve a mission,' I was awfully glad that I was where I was," Reynolds says.
That's a pretty strong statement, considering what Reynolds had already achieved as a player. But when he returned from the mission field, despite a lot of aches and pains and "extremely sore feet," he not only regained his starting position honors, and all-American citations. In 1977, he ended his college career with appearances in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Now, in 1983, he's back in Provo again. And he's frank about his desires to stay for a while. "I don't have any high aspirations about moving on up the coaching ladder," he says, "because I'm very happy here in Provo, working with the outstanding program that has been molded here at BYU."
No doubt the Cougar players and coaches are equally happy that he's here. And Leslie Reynolds can plant a garden in the back yard, and a few pine saplings that she can watch grow to maturity.