Returned missionaries gearing up for college football

Hello “Mormons in Sports” fans, welcome to my new blog.

The purpose of this blog is to provide news and information about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Mormons – who compete in the wide world of sports.

With college football around the corner, I wanted to began by sharing some news about LDS returned missionaries who are suiting up to play football this fall:

  • William Vea is a redshirt freshman fullback at UNLV. He served in Kingston, Jamaica. Vea told the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a scary moment when an intoxicated man pulled a knife on him and his companion.
  • Hamani Stevens, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman, served in the Philippines. Despite two years away from the game, head coach Chip Kelly said Stevens “is doing a real nice job.” For more, see this report by the Oregonian.
  • Drew Reilly is a freshman safety at Colorado State. He was a missionary in Texas from Nov. 2008 to 2010. An article in the Denver Post offers some information on his transition back to football.

Last summer I had the chance to interview Chris Badger, a freshman football player at Notre Dame. At the time, Badger, a defensive back, decided to put his college career on hold and serve a 2-year LDS mission. He received his call to Guayaquil, Equador and was thrilled to go. Here is a link to that story.

Fast forward to Aug. 18, 2011, roughly one year later. Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune published a piece about Badger. The former Timpview High star was scheduled to come home in Aug. 2012, then got permission to come home in March 2012, knocking off about six months. Now Badger hopes to cut his mission even shorter so he can return to Notre Dame in January and thus compete in spring football. That would cut around nine months off his mission. The church rarely grants such a request. To read Hamilton’s article, click here.

My take: I served a mission to Santiago, Chile. I know mission life. While I admire Badger for leaving football to serve the Lord, I disagree with his decision to come home early. You either do a mission or you don’t. Other missionaries have served the full two years and returned to great careers in football. Austin Collie (Indianapolis Colts, BYU) is a good example, and there are numerous others in various sports. Cale Iorg served a mission to Portugal and was greatly blessed. Read his story here. Serving the full two years is like paying 10 percent tithing on the first 20 years of your life. I hope Badger doesn’t regret his decision later in life.

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