BYU Football Team Holds Devotional in New England

Contributed By Jason Swensen

  • 10 September 2014

BYU running backs sing “I Need Thee Every Hour” at the August 28 team devotional at the Hartford Connecticut Stake Center.  Photo by Michael Lyons

Article Highlights

  • The BYU football team gave talks, performed a musical number, and participated in a Q&A session at the Hartford Connecticut Stake Center.
  • The team has participated in devotionals during road trips since 2005.
  • Roadside devotionals will be held prior to games against Texas, Central Florida, Boise State, Middle Tennessee State, and California–Berkeley.

“The firesides have been a way for us to make a very clear statement of what our priorities are, or should be. Football is simply the vehicle we use to help others come to a knowledge of what really brings joy and happiness to our lives.” —Bronco Mendenhall, BYU football coach

EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT

The BYU football team’s recent foray into southern New England is being called a multi-leveled success.

First, both print and online news services touted the Cougars’ August 29 nationally televised 35-10 victory over the University of Connecticut. Quarterback and returned missionary Taysom Hill passed for three touchdowns and ran for a couple more, while a stout BYU defense held the Huskies to 71 total yards.

But for many Latter-day Saints living in the region, the most lasting memories of the 2014 BYU football squad may be from a team devotional held on the eve of the game. Several hundred BYU alums, local members, and their friends and neighbors gathered inside the Hartford Connecticut Stake Center for the event. The devotional was hosted by the Hartford Stake and the Hartford BYU Alumni Chapter.

Football team devotionals are nothing new. Bronco Mendenhall has been hosting them in Church meetinghouses on team road trips since he became the head coach in 2005. The gatherings give Cougar fans and others an opportunity to see a side of the team beyond its play on the gridiron. The devotionals are free and open to the public.

“The firesides have been a way for us to make a very clear statement of what our priorities are, or should be,” said Coach Mendenhall in a BYU statement. “Football is simply the vehicle we use to help others come to a knowledge of what really brings joy and happiness to our lives.”

Meeting with others in a non-football setting, he added, is “a way for all of us to help consider our priorities through understanding the purpose of life.”

Besides this year’s road game devotionals, the Cougars will also participate in a team-only devotional at the Utah State Prison and a public devotional prior to the October 17 homecoming game against Nevada.

The Hartford devotional included talks from team members, a musical selection from the running backs, a question-and-answer session, and closing remarks from Coach Mendenhall.

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall responds to audience questions during an August 28 team devotional at the Hartford Connecticut Stake Center. Photo by Michael Lyons.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill shares remarks at the August 28 football team devotional at the Hartford Connecticut Stake Center. Photo by Michael Lyons.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (4) slides under Connecticut Huskies linebacker Marquise Vann (46) during a football game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, on Friday, August 29, 2014. Photo by Michael Lyons.

Over 80 percent of the team members in recent years have served missions. The players and coaches are not perfect, said Coach Mendenhall. “[But] we do our best to represent our beliefs through a game. Christ went about doing good. That’s the intent of our program through football.”

Receiver Kurt Henderson, defensive lineman Graham Rowley, and kicker Trevor Samson all spoke. Trevor is a transfer student from California and is not a Latter-day Saint. He spoke of how he has relied on God to help him overcome the challenges of a liver transplant and other health issues.

The Q&A session was candid, touching on subjects ranging from football conference affiliations to eternal matters of the Spirit.

Running back Adam Hines responded to a request for advice for youth who are the only members at their school.

“I’d suggest you read For the Strength of Youth if you have not,” he said. “Second, after you know your standards, make commitments to yourself and others that you will keep the standards. That way, when you’re at a party and someone is drinking, you have already made the decision beforehand that you’re not going to drink.”

Another audience member asked how playing on the team has helped the athletes grow closer to the Lord.

“We represent something that’s far beyond ourselves,” said Taysom Hill. “We have an opportunity to reach out to others and be on our best behavior and be examples.”

Future 2014 road game devotionals will be held prior to games against Texas, Central Florida, Boise State, Middle Tennessee State, and California–Berkeley.