Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Matt Reynolds has a choice to make. Should he come back for his senior season, or should he forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft? One former BYU offensive lineman didn’t have to worry about this. Eli Herring’s four-year college career with the Cougars ended in 1994. Then, he made national headlines as the 1995 NFL draft approached.
Herring wrote letters to all 30 professional teams expressing his desire to not be drafted. He was not interested in playing football on Sundays. Make that the Sabbath day. Herring felt that by playing football on Sunday was not in accordance with the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. The Associated Press, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times all covered the story.
At 6’8” and 335 pounds, the Oakland Raiders could not resist. They used a sixth round pick on Herring. Raiders executive Bruce Allen went to Utah to talk with Herring and see if he would change his mind. Even with a contract that would pay $500,000 a year in front of him, Herring wouldn’t budge. Former Cougar Fred Whittingham was the Raiders’ linebacker coach at the time. He invited Eli and his wife over for a visit. Whittingham didn’t have any success, either.
Herring chose high school teaching as his profession. His first year salary was $22,000. The fame and notoriety died down. No one is erecting shrines or statues of him, like they might if he had a successful professional career. However, for Herring no honor, success, or amount of money matters as much as honoring and worshiping on the Sabbath day with a clear conscience.
Wild Blue Yonder: The High Flying Story of BYU Football, Dick Harmon and Steve Cameron, Addax Publishing Group, Lenexa, Kansas, 1997.
More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.
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