The Brigham Young Cougars primary reason for leaving the Mountain West Conference in 2011 and becoming a college football independent was greater exposure for the school and its sponsoring religion—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Logically, the better BYU is the more exposure the Church will receive. Having the best players possible is one key ingredient to the BYU football team being better.
Manti Te’o, a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ, did the opposite yesterday on the nationally syndicated Jim Rome show.
Te’o is an All-American linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. No doubt, the BYU defense would be better if Te’o was a part of it. Despite heavy recruiting efforts by BYU and even some of his cousins being on the BYU roster, Te’o ultimately signed with Notre Dame. Some might say that Te’o disappointed his Church and its members by not enrolling at BYU.
That mentality could not be further from the truth. By attending Notre Dame, Te’o created another platform for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to gain exposure.
Earlier this year, a Notre Dame fan stepped out of line on Twitter with a remark about Mormons, a name commonly used to refer to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he learned about the tweet, Te’o stepped in with a tweet of his own: “woah…I’m Mormon. Be careful dude.” (You can view the entire twitter exchange here. WARNING: the tweet by the Notre Dame fan includes an expletive.) Not only was the Te’o tweet viewable to his 42,000-plus followers, but it was retweeted 20 times.
As already stated, the Jim Rome Show is a national radio show. It airs from 12-3 PM (Eastern Time) every day. Over 247,000 people have liked Jim Rome’s Facebook page. He has nearly 1 million followers on twitter. On this platform, Te’o was an outstanding representative of his religion and the quality of people who follow it.
For nearly 12 of the 15 minutes, he unabashedly talked about his faith, without distastefully wearing his religion on his sleeve. Te’o told stories about praying to know which school he should attend. Prayer came up again as he talked about helping his girlfriend as she struggled through the ordeals of chemotherapy to treat her leukemia. He shared how his faith in Heavenly Father had helped him deal with her death and the death of his grandmother both on September 12 of this year, and how he believes he will see them again.
Editor's Note: In January 2013, it was discovered that Te'o's girlfriend was a ficticious internet personality.
Rome was stunned. After the interview, he tweeted, “I am speechless after that conversation with Manti Te'o. One of the most astonishing, inspiring conversations I've ever had with an athlete.” In less than one day, this tweet has been retweeted 1,010 times and favorited by 205 people.
The positive exposure that Te’o has brought to the Church in just these two instances can’t be denied. It is hard to imagine a scenario where this exposure would have come to the Church if Te’o was a BYU Cougar.
Did Te'o disappoint the 14 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by not attending BYU? Absolutely not. In fact, Te’o did the exact opposite yesterday. He delighted them and brought more positive exposure to his religion.
The complete interview with Jim Rome can be heard below.
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