Like many of you, I heard the news that Andy Pedersen passed away Thursday night. With grocery bags still at my feet, I found myself sifting through several dozen heartwarming Twitter messages from Utah State coaches, staff members, athletes past and present, athletic director John Hartwell and many more from us everyday fans who immediately felt the soft void of Captain Aggie’s absence.
As anyone who’s attended an Aggie sporting event within the past 50 years might tell you, “absent” is one word you’d never use to describe the man.
Arriving here in Cache Valley in 2013 having almost no knowledge of the town or its history, all I knew about USU was its sports culture. Being an Aggie meant you went to football games in the bitter cold and cheered your voice away by halftime. It meant you descended on the Spectrum an hour before tipoff just to jeer opposing players all through warmups. For me, it also meant tagging along with the Aggie volleyball team in a sports writing gig for the Statesman I almost literally fell into by accident. It was at that first game in a half-full Spectrum I noticed him, a man in an odd cap with pom-poms streaming out the back of it, accented by a cape, leading hundreds of students and alumni in a majestic cheer all his own.
I found it peculiar at first, but it became such a charming assurance knowing he would be there. Night after night, I acclimated to the post-game interview procedure while observing Andy shake hands with and encourage those athletes who sought him out. There was a familiarity there between this man in a hat and cape and the players on the court. You couldn’t help but love him.
No matter the event, he absolutely brought it. I was surprised to discover he even appeared at gymnastics meets and women’s basketball games, pumping up crowds with rallying cries and top-notch game-day signs and (on special nights) an astounding number of pushups.
Over the past four years, my interactions with him have probably been similar to yours — small chats here and there, a congratulatory fist bump, an assuring thumbs up. While I only ever gathered bits and pieces about his life, anyone who spoke with the man picked up on one major theme.
Pedersen was a constant.
There will likely never be another individual who so wholly represents the Aggie anthem “I believe.” When Boise State football fans swarmed into Maverik Stadium in 2015 to see their no. 21-ranked boys lay a smackdown on Utah State for what would’ve been the 13th time in a row, Pedersen was there with us in the student section. He sang and cheered better than most (Pedersen never missed an opportunity to cheer). He shouted “I believe that we will win” like it was any other game — because he did believe, and we did win.
He was a man who cared about the wellbeing of every student and every athlete with all his heart. Saying that about most people would risk sounding cliche, but Pedersen’s dedication to Utah State was unquestionable. He took his position rain or shine (or awful canyon wind) to support every event possible. He attended volleyball and softball games as dutifully as he did football and basketball. They were equal in his eyes, and for athletes and students alike he illustrated why in many ways sports are more than simple entertainment.
There will continue to be things written about him and for him in the days ahead, but I wanted to express my personal appreciation for all that he represented here at Utah State. We have been so fortunate to have had a man like Andy Pedersen in our Aggie family.
May his memory inspire us all never to miss an opportunity to cheer.