Mormon athletes are leaving their sports to serve missions

Since LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson’s historic missionary announcement at the October 2012 general conference, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of young men and women applying to serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That includes athletes with promising college careers in their respective sports.

Former Desert Hills hurdler Brad Wulfenstein signs his National Letter of Intent to compete for BYU. (St. George Spectrum)

Former Desert Hills hurdler Brad Wulfenstein signs his National Letter of Intent to compete for BYU. (St. George Spectrum)

Desert Hills High (St. George, Utah) champion hurdler Brad Wulfenstein recently signed a letter of intent, agreeing to join the BYU track team on a full scholarship after his LDS church mission to Uganda.

Wulfenstein, who took state in both the 110 and 300-meter hurdles at the state meet, hopes his two-year hiatus will not alter his body too drastically, but BYU coach Mark Robinson isn’t worried, according to an article in the St. George Spectrum.

“All you can hope is that they can do even a moderate amount of exercise out there,” Robinson said. “Realistically, the first year is almost always hard; they have to jump right back into the routines and usually experience a lot of injury and fatigue as a result.”

Brock Hale, a standout baseball star from Mesa, Ariz., hopes to continue his baseball career in 2016 after he serves his Mormon mission. He also hopes to play baseball at BYU, according to Arizonasports.com.

Austin Montgomery recently entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, according to the Gainsville Times. He is going to a Spanish-speaking mission in Texas.

Elder Austin Montgomery, center, with two friends from Georgia. Montgomery, who committed to play basketball for Utah, is going to a Spanish-speaking mission in Texas.

Elder Austin Montgomery, center, with two friends from Georgia. Montgomery, who committed to play basketball for Utah, is going to a Spanish-speaking mission in Texas.

Montgomery has accepted a spot on the University of Utah men’s basketball roster and a nearly full scholarship starting in 2015. The 6-foot-8 center averaged 21 points and nine rebounds a game as a senior at Lakeview Academy in Georgia. These two Gainsville Times articles (Dec. 2012 and Feb. 2013) tell more about Montgomery’s senior year.

Lakeview Academy football coach Matthew Gruhn and student Austin Montgomery.

Lakeview Academy football coach Matthew Gruhn and student Austin Montgomery. ( Tom Reed/The Gainsville Times)

“God is first in my life, family is second,” Montgomery told Bill Murphy of the Gainsville Times.

While some athletes are leaving on their missions, others are returning to compete with a fury.

BYU center fielder Jacob Hannemann, 22, delayed his education two years to serve his mission and has since split his time between football and baseball. He was expected to contend for a starting spot at cornerback for the Cougars this fall. But the Chicago Cubs selected Hannemann with the 75th overall pick of the MLB draft after his production soared late in the season, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Hannemann was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 48th round in 2010 but teams knew it was very unlikely he would sign. His priority then was completing his church mission.

“I wanted to go out and serve (after the 2010 draft), but I missed sports a lot,” Hannemann said before the draft. “The dream to be a professional baseball player was still there, but it was fuzzy. Now it’s clear, like in HD. I never imagined it would come around so quickly.”

 

 

4 comments

  1. georgiaonmymind

    Austin is a great kid and great athlete! I know he will be a great missionary! Way to represent the south!

  2. Bernard Gui

    Athletes going on missions is laudable, but why is it news?. There are other missionaries that make similar sacrifices to serve the Lord. For example, gifted musicians and artists give up 2 years of practice and coaching during a critical time in their training. For example, one musician with whom I am familiar gave up a full-ride scholarship to study the cello at a very expensive school in order to serve his mission. Why not report on these faithful members, too? Or, why report on any at all? All missionaries give service and deserve recognition.

  3. icemaiden

    The name of the blog is Mormons in Sports and that is what it focuses on.
    Maybe someone could start a Mormons in the Arts blog.

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