Michigan tackle Andrew Gentry is playing college football while serving in a YSA bishopric

From his mission in Utah to playing football for the Wolverines, the 6-foot-7, 312-pound lineman has learned the value of placing the Lord first in his life

Many know the story of how Andrew Gentry went from serving a Latter-day Saint mission in Utah to playing college football at the University of Michigan.

What many may not know is while attending classes and playing for one of the top programs in the nation, the 6-foot-7, 312-pound sophomore is continuing to serve at a rigorous pace in his young single adult ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I’m the first counselor in the bishopric,” he said. “It keeps me busy.”

Helping the bishop as he presides over a ward can be demanding, especially when combined with the schedule of a high-profile college athlete. But Gentry is ready and willing to serve.

“When you have these assignments, it gives me an opportunity to take a step back from the world, take a step back from school and football for a second, and focus on the Lord and His work and trying to do whatever I can here in Ann Arbor to push the work of the Lord forward,” he said.

Just before the Michigan Wolverines finished spring football on April 3, Gentry spoke with Church News about the events that took him from a mission in Utah to playing for the Maize and Blue and serving as a bishopric counselor in the Ann Arbor Michigan YSA Ward.

Michigan offensive lineman and Latter-day Saint Andrew Gentry (75) crouches while lining up in front of an opposing player in a game against Rutgers on Nov. 5, 2022. Three of his teammates stand or crouch behind him and one crouches to his left.
University of Michigan offensive lineman and Latter-day Saint Andrew Gentry (75) lines up in a game against Rutgers on Nov. 5, 2022. | University of Michigan Athletics

What happened during Gentry’s mission

Michigan football wasn’t even on Gentry’s radar when he graduated from Colorado’s Columbine High School in 2020.

Gentry originally committed to play for Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall, a fellow Latter-day Saint, following his two-year mission.

The first plot twist came as Gentry was assigned to the Argentina Salta Mission. Within weeks, the world shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic and he was reassigned to the Utah Orem Mission, an area that has been like a second home. His father grew up in Orem. His grandparents live in nearby Pleasant Grove. His brother, JT Gentry, was in Provo playing for Brigham Young University at the time.

“How on earth is this happening?” he said. “I’m going to serve my mission in a place where I spent more time than anywhere besides my home.”

Left, Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh stands beside Andrew Gentry.
Left, Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh takes a photo with Andrew Gentry, then a Latter-day Saint missionary and college football recruit, during lunch on Dec. 8, 2021. | Provided by Andrew Gentry

Gentry could have finished his mission in Argentina when it reopened more than a year later. But he had felt a spiritual impression to remain in Utah, where he grew to love speaking Spanish and serving the people. It also opened a door to go to Michigan.

That opportunity presented itself when Mendenhall unexpectedly resigned as Virginia’s head coach following the 2021 season. Gentry had less than six months remaining in his mission, and his future suddenly felt uncertain.

A short time later he received word that two schools were interested in having him. His father had made contact with Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s head coach; BYU was also interested.

Gentry prayed for guidance and discussed the matter with his mission president and family before making the decision to go to Michigan without an on-campus visit.

“I had to completely rely on the Lord,” he said. “After talking to my parents, I felt a strong spiritual confirmation that Michigan was the front runner for me.”

Later, with his mission president’s permission, Gentry met Harbaugh for lunch. The coach was respectful of the Church and Gentry’s faith, and promised to support him in every way, which put the young elder at ease and helped him know he had made the right decision.

Looking back, Gentry believes he was primarily sent to Utah to be a missionary, to teach the gospel, and to serve and bless lives. Signing with Michigan was an additional blessing that came as he honored the Lord.

Elder Andrew Gentry stands between two fellow missionaries in the Utah Orem Mission.
Elder Andrew Gentry with two fellow missionaries in the Utah Orem Mission. | Provided by Andrew Gentry

“It was definitely a whirlwind, but I’m grateful the Lord gave me those impressions to stay in Utah,” he said. “I was exactly where I needed to be at the time, and the Lord orchestrated everything.”

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Returning to football

Following his mission, Gentry arrived in Ann Arbor having lost 40 pounds of muscle during his mission. He also felt “super rusty” when it came to the timing and balance of the game.

It took several months of the right diet, practice and weight training to rebuild his strength.

Slowly but surely, Gentry said he started to feel like a player again one month into the 2022 season. Wearing No. 75, he saw limited action on the field and was grateful to be part of Michigan’s winning season, which included a big win over rival Ohio State, winning the Big 10 Conference championship and reaching the College Football Playoff.

Michigan offensive lineman and Latter-day Saint Andrew Gentry (75) crouches while lining up against UConn in a game during the 2022 season. Four of his fellow players crouch around him.
Michigan offensive lineman and Latter-day Saint Andrew Gentry (75) lines up against the University of Connecticut in a game during the 2022 season. | University of Michigan Athletics

Now, following spring practices, Gentry finally feels completely back. The Wolverines have several experienced and talented players at offensive tackle. He is practicing with the second team squad and learning from some of the best linemen in the country. He says progress has come thanks to little miracles each day, prayers before and after practice, and trusting in the Lord.

“A lot has been trial by fire,” he said. “Again, I have seen the hand of the Lord in everything. He really helped me when I first got back this summer.”

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Serving in a YSA bishopric

In December 2022, Church leaders announced a new emphasis on young single adults serving in all YSA callings except for stake president and bishop.

Bishop Brian West of the Ann Arbor YSA Ward already had his eye on Gentry, who had been serving in the elders quorum presidency. The bishop had listened to him speak in meetings about his mission and the experiences that led him to Michigan.

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When the YSA callings announcement came, Gentry — the only active Latter-day Saint on the Michigan football team — was the first name that came to the bishop’s mind.

“I was impressed with him, his attitude and his commitment to the gospel. There is no question who comes first,” West said. “He has been a joy to work with, ... very faithful. I trust him completely.”

The bishopric of the Ann Arbor Michigan YSA Ward poses for picture in front of several book cases. From left: Brian Richards, second counselor; Bishop Brian West; and Andrew Gentry, first counselor.
The bishopric of the Ann Arbor Michigan YSA Ward: Left, Brian Richards, second counselor; Bishop Brian West; and Andrew Gentry, first counselor. Gentry is an offensive tackle for the Michigan Wolverines. | Provided by Brian West

Football has sometimes conflicted with his Church duties — Gentry says it’s his biggest challenge — but he has felt blessed in fulfilling his responsibilities. The bishop cited recent examples of delegating important assignments to the young man with broad shoulders, such as seeking inspiration in planning the ward’s Easter sacrament service. “It was a fantastic program,” West said.

The ward has an average attendance of about 60 members, and they are all drawn to the towering lineman. The topic of football does come up but the bishop, a football fan, tries not to overwhelm his first counselor with too many questions.

Brian Richards, who serves as second counselor, loves serving with Gentry and says football rarely comes up when they are performing bishopric duties.

“He’s very diligent and humble, always focused on the members of the ward and the directions of the Spirit,” Richards said. “Despite his demanding schedule for football, he never lets his Church responsibilities take the back burner. Even on weeks when he cannot attend our ward’s Sunday meetings, he is still involved with directing ward matters and meeting with members.”

There is one football story Gentry has told when speaking to groups that West says hits home with a powerful spiritual message.

Before his mission, Gentry was recruited by Alabama coach Nick Saban. When Gentry informed the legendary coach of his plans to serve a mission, Saban was respectful but said he could not hold a spot for him on the team.

In his presentation, Gentry then shows a photo of the Crimson Tide hoisting a national championship trophy. If he had opted to pass on a mission and suited up for Alabama, he would already be a national champion. But he knew that was not where the Lord needed him to be. The lesson? Put your trust in the Lord and His timing.

“I know he is going to be faithful to the Lord,” West said. “He’s going to be successful whatever he does.”

Words to live by

Gentry finds daily inspiration in two quotes from President Ezra Taft Benson, who happens to be his great-grandfather.

From his mission in Utah to playing football in Michigan, Gentry has continued seeing blessings when he places the Lord first in his life.

“I had my plan coming out of high school. The Lord had different plans,” he said. “So my goal every day is to just let the Lord completely guide my life. He has led me to different people, to different opportunities that I never would have imagined. ... The Lord takes care of those who take care of Him.”

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