Called to Play

0-fua-150x150This past week three Mormons were called to spend their Sundays during each fall in pursuit of goals quite different than those of most other Church members. In their battles they will face “violence, punctuated by committee meetings.” But none of these three hail from the traditional preparation centers for Mormons.

No, these three Mormons went to Stanford and USC, and they were drafted into the NFL.

It is perhaps a bit surprising that the traditional Mormon football schools, certainly BYU and Utah, if not also Utah State, Weber and other schools in the Mountain West, didn’t produce anyone who was drafted this year.

One of the three, Sione Fua, a defensive tackle who played at Stanford, is a returned missionary, although he returned after serving for just a year. Still, the mission was important to Fua, who made an issue of missionary service when he was recruited and turned down USC because they wouldn’t keep his scholarship through a mission. Fua was drafted near the end of the 3rd round (97th overall) by the Carolina Panthers.

At the beginning of the next round (102nd overall), the Cleveland Browns drafted Jordan Cameron, who may be familiar to BYU fans as a point guard on the Cougar basketball team in 2006-7. Thinking he would try football again, he tried to transfer to USC, but ended up spending a year at Ventura College because all his credits from BYU wouldn’t transfer. The Trojans moved Cameron from wide receiver to tight end and he flourished there, catching 16 passes and scoring a touchdown in his final year.

Jordan’s teammate Stanley Havili came close to earning the dubious honor of “Mr. Irrelevant” – the last player chosen in the draft. He was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles as the 37th pick in the 7th round (240th overall). Like Fua, also struggled with the mission vs. play football decision, eventually chosing USC in spite of their inflexibility towards LDS missions. And Havili thought about serving a mission in spite of USC’s policies, but eventually deciding to stay and pursue his career.

As far as I can tell, these are the only Mormons chosen in the NFL draft this year. This fall they will join about 30 other Mormons playing in the NFL. Of course, it could be that I’ve missed someone. If I have, I’m very interested to know.

BTW, the WNBA also held their annual draft in April, but as far as I can tell, no LDS players were chosen — perhaps because the colleges and universities that traditionally draw LDS students don’t have top-ranked women’s basketball programs. I only know of one LDS player who has made the WNBA.

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7 comments for “Called to Play

  1. He may have returned from his mission, but unless he was honorably released, I’m not calling him an RM.

  2. In the absence of information to the contrary, why don’t we just call him an RM, rather than letting our imaginations run wild?

  3. Your title reminded me of an account I heard from a former ward member who served his mission in Taiwan (in the late 80s, I believe). He said that they had all sorts of trouble getting Taiwanese men to listen to the missionaries, due to the speficics of Taiwanese culture. And so finally, the mission president (apparently with the blessing of the area authority) organized an official mission basketball team, and drafted several elders who had had high school or junior college basketball experience. The resulting team was good enough to challenge local city league teams, and played games once a week or so in an organized league. The games had moderate attendance, heavily skewed male. While the team played ball, the elders’ companions would go through the crowd with a flyer that said, “would you like to meet this player and have an hour conversation with him?” According to the account, it resulted in several male baptisms.

  4. Missionary work via basketball??? Sounds like a better tool to bring the church out of obscurity than knocking on doors.

    Agree completely that unless someone has evidence (not speculation) that he returned dishonorably that you should call him an RM. Don’t presume an early release is for poor conduct.

  5. Ya’ll need to remember the controversial basketball and baseball baptisms of the 1960s. As I understand it, while they baptized a lot, the programs were considered failures in the long run because those baptized didn’t stay active.

  6. Please, let’s not say they were “called” to play professional sports on Sunday — no, can we say they have chosen . . .?

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