AUBURN, Ala. — Jorrell Bostrom took the long way from Idaho to Alabama.
Bostrom, 25, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior offensive lineman for the BCS' No. 1-ranked Auburn University Tigers, didn't even start playing football until the eighth grade in Nampa, Idaho, where he grew up the oldest of six adopted children.
"I was adopted when I was like a month old," Bostrom said. "All my siblings are adopted — all six of us are. It was interesting growing up. Our parents were white and then my siblings are all black and I'm Tongan. It was all a mix."
Bostrom said, "I didn't really know the rules (of football). I was just a big body out there."
But he learned the rules quickly, and it didn't take long for him to make a big impact.
In high school, he moved up to varsity as a sophomore and was named to all-conference teams as a defensive lineman before moving to the offensive side of the ball.
After he graduated from Nampa High School in 2003, things started to get interesting as he saw his older friends return from missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"When I was in high school I really hadn't thought about (serving a mission) much," he said. "By the time I graduated, all my friends were getting back from their missions, and it seemed like the right thing to do. I could recognize a change in them."
For a year, Bostrom worked for the Nampa school district delivering food to public schools. He then left to serve in the Tacoma Washington Mission.
After he returned from his mission in 2006, he went to Bakersfield College, a two-year school in California, with a friend, Jacob Bower, who got home from his own mission at the same time.
Bower, a quarterback, had gone to Brigham Young University before his mission but decided to go to Bakersfield and urged Bostrom to go there, too. "Bower is my best friend," Bostrom said. "I've known him since first grade.
"It worked out pretty good."
After Bakersfield, Bower went to the University of Tulsa to play quarterback for the Hurricane and told his offensive coordinator about Bostrom. A series of coaching contacts and changes would lead Bostrom to Auburn.
Jeff Grimes, an assistant coach at Colorado, had been at BYU when Bower was there, and Bostrom sent film to Grimes. "Initially, I was thinking of maybe going to Colorado," Bostrom said.
But Grimes took a job at Auburn, and "I heard from him again and I ended up coming down here," said Bostrom, who is listed second at the right guard spot on the Auburn depth chart.
A lot of friends had urged him to go to a smaller, less prominent football school.
"The only people who were supportive were my family. Everyone else said to kind of play it safe and go somewhere you can play. But because of my family and because of my grandparents and my patriarchal blessing just speaking about football in general — that I'll excel as long as I keep the commandments and do what I'm supposed to — that was the big deciding factor in me coming down to Auburn, just because a lot of people said I couldn't and I wanted to do it."
Although Grimes is not LDS, Bostrom said, "he understands and knows about how we operate. When he was talking to me about getting me down here, he said that was the big thing about recruiting me — he liked that I had served a mission and he liked that I was Tongan. He knew that I'd be a hard worker and I could get up early because we had to get up early on our missions, so he said, 'You're going to get up early and go to workouts and I won't have to worry about you because I know you'll work.' It was good having a relationship with him coming into it."
Bostrom says he hasn't seen any other Polynesians in the Southeastern Conference and he's the only Mormon on his team.
"Everyone knows I'm LDS. Because I'm the oldest on the team, everyone wants to know why. … I say, 'Well, I served a mission,' and they ask what's a mission and that kind of leads into question after question and you're able to share a little principle with them and tell them what a mission is about. So it's been pretty neat.
"On (football) trips, people really haven't dealt with Mormons — just what they've heard — so for a lot of them, I'm the first one they've met."
Bostrom also stands out on his team because he's married. He and his wife, Kevra, got married in the Boise Temple last year.
Kevra, also from Nampa, graduated from Boise State University and is a teacher.
Living in Auburn has been a culture change for the Bostroms.
"I had never been down South, and I didn't expect it to be as green as it is," Bostrom said. "I'd never really had to deal with humidity. People are really warm and really loving. That's one thing that I realized right away. Everyone waves and everyone says 'hi.' They're really helpful. Auburn kind of reminds me of Nampa."
Jim Vallery, president of the Auburn Hills Branch for young single adults in the Columbus Georgia Stake, says the Bostroms are assigned as branch missionaries and family home evening coordinators in the branch, which was a student branch until last May.
President Vallery said, "Jorrell has been kind of a linchpin in our branch." He and Kevra "have been really instrumental in drawing attention to the branch. …" Jorrell "loves to sing. He plays the guitar and the first time I met him, he came to church in a lava-lava with his hair pulled back in a ponytail. We had a lake party here at our house, and he came in a lava-lava over his bathing suit and played the guitar and sang songs. It was really nice.
"He relates very well to the members, and they all kind of gather around and like to exchange jokes and missionary experiences and things like that when he's there.Comment on this story
"He's a big teddy bear."
Bostrom says his mission experience has helped him in school and in football.
"My mission helped me plan out stuff and definitely helped with my study skills, helped me prioritize stuff and realize what needed to be done first before I could do the next thing. Also just the hard work. There would be those days that we would knock (on doors) and no one would talk to us and we'd do the same thing. It's just kind of like practice — doing the same thing. It's definitely hard work and perseverance."