Mormons and “violence punctuated by committee meetings”

August 31, 2011 | 39 comments
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During the fall, Sundays after Church are reserved, among a not insignificant but mostly male portion of Church members in the United States, as a time for enjoying a traditional American pastime—what one commentator described as “violence punctuated by committee meetings.”[1] And the number of Mormons who are paid to participate in these meetings has approached 40 this year.

The pastime is, of course, American football, which may be more popular among Mormons in the U.S. than any other sport. The relative prowess of BYU and the University of Utah over the years has built a steady fan base for the sport, one which seems to have little problem following the games, despite the fact that the professional games are primarily played on Sunday.

But this post isn’t about watching or playing sports on Sunday. [EDIT: because comments have veered of topic and continued to discuss this, after September 2nd any comments that try to discuss sports on Sunday will be removed.] Instead, it is a list of the current players in the NFL who are Mormon. I prepared a similar list earlier this year of Mormons in Major League Baseball, and I have wanted to do the same for other sports, but haven’t found the time to get those lists up to date.

What follows, then, is simply a list of those players who are apparently Mormon (according to the claims I’ve found). I haven’t had time to verify that they are, in fact, Mormon (and in many cases it isn’t really possible to verify this, in any case). No one is claiming that they are active or “good” Mormons. I don’t know! And since I’m more of a baseball fan than a football fan, I don’t even know about the behavior of these players at all.

But, I am interested in hearing about any errors — be they players who are included in error, or players who haven’t been included. My criteria include any player who has been baptized at some point in his life, or who grew up in a Mormon family.

Why have I compiled this? Sports are about affiliation. We often follow the team of our city simply because it is hosted in or city (these days its unlikely that many players on the team are actually from our area!). Many Mormons follow BYU simply because it is owned by the Church. So by providing a list of which players are Mormon, we are simply giving fans another connection to players and teams — and through that another way to enjoy the sport.[2]

So, having gone through the disclaimers, here is the list I’ve compiled of the Mormons currently playing in the NFL. Corrections and further information are appreciated:

Players

  • Al Afalava — DB, Colts, Oregon State
  • C. J. Ah You — DL, Rams, Oklahoma
  • John Beck — QB, Redskins, BYU
  • Stewart Bradley — LB, Cardinals, Nebraska
  • Kirk Chambers — T, Lions, Stanford
  • Austin Collie — WR, Colts, BYU
  • Chris Cooley — TE, Redskins, Utah State
  • Kevin Curtis — WR, Titans, Utah State
  • John Denney — LS, Dolphins, BYU
  • Jonathan Fanene — DE, Bengals, Utah
  • Aaron Francisco — DB, Lions, BYU
  • Max Hall — QB, Cardinals, BYU (currently on Injured Reserve)
  • Todd Heap — TE, Cardinals, Arizona State
  • Chris Hoke — NT, Steelers, BYU
  • Bryan Kehl — LB, Rams, BYU
  • Brett Keisel — DE, Steelers, BYU
  • Chris Kemoeatu — G, Steelers, Utah (is Kemoeatu Mormon?)
  • Paul Kruger — DE, Ravens, Utah
  • Spencer Larsen — FB, Broncos, Arizona
  • Deuce Lutui — G, Cardinals, USC
  • Fili Moala — DT, Colts, USC
  • Tony Moeaki — TE, Chiefs, Iowa
  • Haloti Ngata — DT, Ravens, Oregon
  • David Nixon — LB, Dolphins, BYU
  • Dennis Pitta — TE, Ravens, BYU
  • Brady Poppinga — LB, Rams, BYU
  • Sione Pouha — DT, Jets, Utah
  • Dallas Reynolds — C, Eagles, BYU
  • Derek Schouman TE, Redskins, Boise State
  • Tim Toone — WR, Lions, Weber State
  • Manase Tonga — RB, Raiders, BYU
  • Harvey Unga — RB, Bears, BYU
  • Fui Vakapuna — RB, Bengals, BYU
  • Eric Weddle — DB, Chargers, Utah

Drafted 2011

  • Jordan Cameron — TE, Cleveland Browns, USC
  • Sione Fua — DT, Carolina Panthers, Stanford
  • Stanley Havili — FB, Eagles, USC

Coaches

  • Darrell Bevell — OC, Seattle Seahawks – was Vikings
  • Dave Campo — Secondary Coach, Dallas Cowboys
  • Andy Reid — HC, Philadelphia Eagles

[1]George F. Will, International Herald Tribune, 7 May 1990. Will’s complete quote is: “Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

[2]FWIW, I think any attempt to find any more meaning beyond this connection is silly. The performance of Mormon sports figures doesn’t mean anything about Mormonism, and while I suspect that at best Mormons in professional sports might gain slightly from following the Word of Wisdom, I’d be surprised if Mormonism had much more effect on their performance than that.

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39 Responses to Mormons and “violence punctuated by committee meetings”

  1. Jeff on August 31, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    I wish I could add my brother-in-law, Ashante Woodyard, to the list. Unfortunately, after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he blew out his knee in his first preseason and never made it to his first game. Of course, if he hadn’t blown out his knee, he probably wouldn’t have met my sister-in-law and thus would not be my brother-in-law, but I digress.

    (Of course, his younger brother, Wesley, is about to start his fourth season with the Denver Broncos, but Wesley isn’t LdS and therefore doesn’t affect your list.)

  2. Kent Larsen on August 31, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    “Wesley isn’t LdS and therefore doesn’t affect your list.”

    I hope your brother-in-law is working on that…

  3. Stephen Hardy on September 1, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Is Andy Reid active?

  4. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2011 at 8:12 am

    As I said in the post, Stephen, I don’t really know for sure. BUT, last I heard he was.

  5. Jax on September 1, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Andy Reid was often talked about amongst BYU fans as the man they hoped would be hired when they hired Bronco Mendenhall. Sports media is the SLC area reported that he was active LDS. That is subject to change though, so I can’t verify anything today.

  6. Mark B. on September 1, 2011 at 10:14 am

    A few years back when my daughter was in school in the suburbs west of Philadelphia, we attended church with her one Sunday and were greeted very cordially by Andy Reid and his wife. (I think they saw our huge mob of a family and hoped that we might be moving into the ward.)

    That proves, I suppose, that Bro. Reid was active for at least one Sunday. (But I’ve heard from others that he is an active member of the church. And, would Vai Sikahema let him be otherwise?)

  7. Jim on September 1, 2011 at 10:27 am

    None of these men are active if they are all breaking the Sabbath in pursuit of filthy lucre.

  8. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Thanks, Jim. I’ll remember to tell my doctor Bishop that he isn’t fully active.

    I really hope that comment was a joke. If not . . . all I can do is sigh.

  9. Adam Greenwood on September 1, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Jim,
    they are actively breaking the sabbath. The inactives are the ones sunk deep into their couch.

  10. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Good point, Adam. Which is worse, breaking the sabbath for your employment, or for your enjoyment?

  11. Bob on September 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Ray: This only mades your Bishop an inactive doctor. If he were actively a doctor on Sunday, he would not be a Bishop.
    How many playng pro-ball on Sunday are Bishops?

  12. Jim on September 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Of course I was being facetious but I do think we fall for idolizing the icons of modern-day Babylon. Interestingly, they are the same icons idolized by the Romans and, to a lessor extent, the Greeks. That is, the virility and pureness of unrestrained masculinity.

    I think I admire the Greeks more as they at least maintained a balance between the pursuits of the mind and the pursuits of the body. The Roman intellectual tradition basically stole from the Greeks.

    Amazing how that relationship parallels the one between the United States and Britain.

  13. john f. on September 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Jim, President Kimball said the American military industrial complex constituted the modern idols that we worship.

    American football is harmless, though one wonders why we have to replay the Revolutionary War so often in every football game. . . .

  14. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Jim, there are multiple former professional athletes who have served as Bishops – and Stake Presidents and Mission Presidents and more. To the extent that we idolize them solely because they are pro athletes, your criticism is warranted; to the extent you demonize and stereotype them in any way solely because they are pro athletes, you are the problem you highlight.

    (If you think the only – or even primary – reason they are pro athletes is because they are greedy and in need of repentance, you are sadly mistaken.)

  15. Jim on September 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    john f.,

    I remember that talk. I thought it was one of his greatest.

    American football is harmless except for the concussions and drunk idiotic fans. However, if we were less uptight about violence in American culture we would be imitating the gladiator games of ancient Rome instead. Just give the football players swords and let them go at it for real instead of taking the namby pamby route we see in the NFL.

  16. Jim on September 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Ray,

    My experiences with the “jocks” in high school and their hatred of people like me have provided me with exceptional insight into the motivations, pride and natural man dispositions of the athletic class. I do not speak from ignorance.

  17. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    #11 – “This only mades your Bishop an inactive doctor. If he were actively a doctor on Sunday, he would not be a Bishop.”

    Nope. If he worked every Sunday, he wouldn’t be a Bishop. He can work occasional Sundays and still be a Bishop. It’s called delegation and time management.

    “How many playng pro-ball on Sunday are Bishops?”

    Who cares? Seriously, who cares?

    First, what does being a Bishop have to do with being a worthy LDS member who keeps the Sabbath Day holy? (Btw, I really don’t like the phrase “break the Sabbath”. Nothing I do can break the Sabbath. I prefer “keep the Sabbath Day holy”, since that’s the wording of the actual commandment and points to what I should be doing with my heart on that day, not trying to specify exactly what I do with my body.)

    Second, there are plenty of pro atheltes who became Bishops (or other group leaders) after they stopped playing, because they were worthy to be Bishops or other group leaders while they were playing. (For example, if you feel Dale Murphy and Via Sikahema were greedy Sabbath-breakers because they were pro for years, I’ll tell you your definitions are warped.) They couldn’t attend church for preiods of time, but I’d bet they kept the day holy far better than most of us do – and I’m sure that’s true of me.

  18. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    #16 – Jim, you just highlighted again why your blanket condemnation is the flip side of the exact coin you are criticizing. You are doing to ALL athletes what some (or even most) athletes did to you in high school. It is the exact same attitude you have that you are condemning in others – only you are categorizing all of them.

  19. Jim on September 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Ray,

    You are correct. The scars are such that I have chosen not to take the high road when speaking of that class of humanity.

  20. Bob on September 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Ray: ” Who cares? Seriously, who cares?”
    If I make an open decision to miss Church 6 months of the year for mabe ten years__the Church would care, maybe my family would care also.
    The Church teaches the phrase “break the Sabbath”. I have never heard GAs talk about professional “delegation and time management in regards to woking on the Sabbath.

  21. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I think this is trending off topic. I tried to address the issue of breaking the sabbath in the post to head it off. Its really a topic for another post.

    Now, if you have something to say about the athletes themselves, besides their sabbath activities, go ahead. But lets leave the topic of athletes and sabbath observance for another post.

  22. Jim on September 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Is athleticism compatible with true discipleship? Can we picture Our Saviour wearing pads and a helmet?

  23. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    #22 – Yes – absolutely. Yes, I can – if he’s tackling Pharisees or clearing the temple. Now, to honor Jim’s request . . .

    You’re right, Jim. I will stop and go back to the point of your post. I’m sorry for having contributed to the threadjack.

  24. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Off the top of my head, is Rob Morris still in the NFL? He played for the Colts. Also, I’m pretty sure Scott Mitchell was LDS, but I think he no longer plays in the NFL.

  25. Ray on September 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Sorry, one more came to mind: Is John Tate (or is it Tait) still playing professionally?

  26. Jim Donaldson on September 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    >>Off the top of my head, is Rob Morris still in the NFL?

    No he’s not, but I believe he is one of those featured in the 70 (?) profesionally-produced (“I’m a Mormon”) video profiles featured on the mormon.org website.

  27. Jacob M on September 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Re: “jocks” and hating people like you:

    That usually happened only if you were a big time dork, and since we’ve already made judgmental overstatements, that is probably what you were/are.

  28. Adam Greenwood on September 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Not a popular view point–yes, I am courageous to bring this up, thanks for asking–but I really don’t see what’s so wrong about questioning the choice of LDS pro athletes to play on Sunday. I’d like there to be room for athletes to make that choice and for others to think that they are breaking the commandments for filthy lucre and pride. Tolerance and openness are not just a one-way street.

  29. Brad on September 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    So wait, what if someone were a Mormon, doctor, and former football player…they would be a Sabbath-breaker extraordinaire. We would definitely have to put commandment-enforcers like Jim on the case. Thank God we have Jim!

  30. Tim on September 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I know for a fact that one ex-pro-football player had a sports announcer job that required him to work quite a few Sundays while he simultaneously served as a counselor in a bishopric.

  31. Jacob M on September 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Adam, your courage astounds us all. I think you are right about questioning athletes about playing on the Sabbath, but only to them in person. Doing it online is attacking them where they usually have no idea that it is even happening.

  32. NewlyHousewife on September 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Reminds me of the seminary video with the teenager that grapples with participating in cross country or blessing the sacrament. I can’t remember if the film states whether or not they occurred at the same time but I recall in the end he choose church (or “keeping the sabbath day holy”) than doing what could have lead to a college scholarship or steady form of employment (Olympic participants are paid right?).

    Although at the time I was too far in depth with culture to understand a non-member’s confusion at the end (it was “bring a guest” day), looking back it’s nice to know the 70s/80s film does not depict reality. And I had really smart friends.

    As for if there’s anyone missing from the list: Besides the reality TV star Kendra’s husband I don’t know a thing about football.

  33. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Adam (28): “I really don’t see what’s so wrong about questioning the choice of LDS pro athletes to play on Sunday.”

    Nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t my intention for this post. As I said, I tried to head it off in the op, but somehow that didn’t work.

    If I allowed it to consume the discussion every time I posted a list of Mormon athletes, it would get discussed every time.

  34. Kent Larsen on September 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    NewlyHousewife (32), afaik, neither Kendra Wilkinson or her husband, Hank Bassett, are Mormon. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

  35. CS Eric on September 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Two weeks ago, I got to hear Eli Herring talk about his decision several years ago to not play pro football because he would have to play on Sundays. Before that decision, he was projected to be a first-round draft choice. The Raiders eventually drafted him anyway, and offered him a $1.5M contract. He turned it down.

    One thing I thought was interesting was that his parents were on both sides of the question. His dad thought he should play, and his mother thought he shouldn’t. I have to admit that Bro Herring is the largest “momma’s boy” that I have ever seen.

  36. Mark B. on September 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Maybe it’s time to see the Sabbath as a blessing–isn’t that what Jesus taught?–and be grateful for the opportunities we have to enjoy that blessing in our lives, and quit passing judgment on others about whose motivations and circumstances we know virtually nothing.

    And in that vein, I’ll try to avoid speculating about what on earth made Adam Greenwood the way he is.

  37. Kaimi on September 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Some of the comments have moved from the Sabbath itself (certainly a germane topic) on to broader condemnation of athletes as a group. E.g., “Can we picture Our Saviour wearing pads and a helmet?”

    On the broader question, it is probably relevant to the LDS reader to note that church leaders have participated in organized athletics, and have discussed these experiences in church talks (such as this one).

    (However, we don’t generally go so far as these folks.)

  38. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2011 at 6:16 am

    I shut down comments temporarily on this post because comments continue to veer off topic. Perhaps someone else will create a post to discuss the Sunday issue that so many people seem to want to discuss yet again. But please do not comment on the Sunday issue — I will remove any additional comments on that issue.

    In contrast, comments on which discuss which players in the NFL are Mormon are encouraged, especially those that let us know about players who are not on the list or those who are on the list in error.

  39. Kent Larsen on September 4, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve re-opened comments. Please do NOT comment on the Sunday issue. Any such comments will be removed.