Utah athletes speak of spiritual matters

In a fireside presided over by Elder W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy, University of Utah football players and head coach Ron McBride took time from their bowl-game preparations to speak to Tucson-area Church members Dec. 27.

Washington State defeated Utah, 31-28, in the Copper Bowl on Dec. 29.Two nights before facing Washington State in the Copper Bowl in Tucson's Arizona Stadium, the Utes spoke of spiritual matters to an overflow congregation in the Tucson Stake Center. Three senior football players, all returned missionaries, talked about the importance of putting the Lord's will first, while Coach McBride, a non-member, added to the spirit with thoughts about responsibility and commitment.

Elder Lawrence, president of the North America Southwest Area, spoke of the University of Utah's long and deep association with the Church. After congratulating the team and coaching staff on qualifying for their first bowl game in 28 years, he talked about the need for perspective and obedience to rules in competitive athletics.

"It was Brigham Young himself who founded the University of Utah," said Elder Lawrence, who further noted that the U. of U. was the first school established by the Church when Utah was known as the state of Deseret.

"As we talk about the University of Utah's role as it pertains to the Church, it might be of interest to note that five members of the [Council of theT Twelve are graduates of Utah," said Elder Lawrence.

Elder Lawrence's message centered around the need for strong character in the increasingly competitive world of college sports. "When all is said and done, what will matter will be how well one conducted himself as an individual," he said. "Not the ratio of playing time versus bench time.

". . . Coaches need not only to teach their players skills to play their sport," Elder Lawrence continued, "but also commitment and character."

In something of a Sunday-night version of a locker room pep talk, Coach McBride directed his remarks to the "young people in the audience." He told them that the secret to reaching their goals was in the way they worked toward them.

"My advice is to always take the hard road," said the coach. "If something looks like a shortcut, forget it. It's the hard road that builds character.

"I believe in three things: in education, in responsibility, and in commitment. That's what I ask of my players."

The school's football players who delivered addresses included linebacker Preston Christensen of Salt Lake City; punter Steve Young of Rexburg, Idaho; and offensive lineman Russ Dailey of Salt Lake City.

Christensen talked about his transformation from a walk-on to a starter. He remembered the first day he walked into the Utah football office and asked for a tryout. He had just returned from a mission to Ecuador. "They did their best to discourage me," Christensen said. "But everything worked out for the best. You put your faith in the Lord, He's not going to let you down. I'm convinced the Lord helps us with our day-to-day lives."

Young, the team punter and, like the other Steve Young, also a descendent of Brigham Young, said, "in a few days we'll be playing on national television and a lot of people will be watching. But I can honestly say the most important thing I've done all week is to take the sacrament and thank the Lord once again for dying for me - because that's what life's all about."

Dailey challenged those in attendance to read the scriptures five minutes a day - and see the positive changes that would result in their lives. "If we give the Lord what He wants from us, He will bless us," said the 268-pound lineman, who served a mission to Italy.

The fireside was sponsored by the Latter-day Saints Students Association. Adding musical inspiration was the family of U. of U. media relations director Bruce Woodbury, including Kim, Jon, Scot, David, Jessica and Nancy.

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