BYU's New "Missionary Advantage"

In May, it was Phil Ford making headlines as a recent convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was now interested in playing college football for the Brigham Young Cougars because of his new faith. This month it is Calvin Johnson, Jr. making those same headlines.

Johnson is a 5-foot-8, 182 pound running back from Walterboro, South Carolina. His 4.49 speed in the 40 yard dash more than compensates for his less than ideal height. Even at 5-foot-8, he could still be a very successful college and professional football player. Barry Sanders, Darren Sproles, and Maurice Jones Drew are all 5-foot-8 or shorter. Johnson is being recruited by Boise State, BYU, Clemson, Miami (FL), Missouri, North Carolina, Penn State, South Carolina, Temple, and Vanderbilt.

Ford is a 6-foot-6, 330 pound offensive lineman who plays for Iowa Western Community College. These measurements will catch the eye of many NFL scouts, to say nothing of college recruiters. He initially signed with Kansas out of high school and had offers from a few other schools as well.

Between Ford's size and Johnson's speed, these two have a lot to offer their future team(s). If both end up at BYU, and especially if they become major contributors, then it could spark an outrage among college coaches.

For decades, BYU has had players delay their playing careers for two season's as they served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These two year missions have been criticized by coaches and fans as an unfair advantage.

As the Church of Jesus Christ continues to grow in the United States, the stories of Ford and Johnson are bound to be repeated and, eventually, might become common place. College football recruiting can be very nasty. Some coaches won't take kindly to recruits telling them, "No, thanks. I'd rather play for BYU because I am Mormon."

Cue the criticism. It will probably sound something like this: "Those coaches at BYU are using their missionaries to target top high school football players. They track them down, trick them into joining their church, and then tell them if they don't play football at BYU they are neglecting their church duties."

This criticism will be just as false as the criticism that missionaries are working out for two years to come home bigger and stronger. However, that won't stop people from making the accusation.

Although neither Ford, nor Johnson have even signed to play football at BYU, let alone become stars, a storm is brewing. It is only a matter of time before this becomes a point of contention.

What will be the reaction on the BYU side? Probably a shoulder shrug and a "carry on" attitude. This is BYU, what else is new? BYU is always under attack for being different.

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