When Auburn trailed the University of Alabama by 24 points in the second quarter of the Nov. 26 Iron Bowl, the idea of playing in the BCS National Championship game seemed a million miles away for Tiger senior Jorrell Bostrom.
Even more distant for Bostrom, the only Mormon on his team, was the notion of connecting with other LDS returned missionaries in college football's biggest game on Jan. 10.
Yet among the Tigers and Ducks in Glendale, Ariz., next Monday, Bostrom will have the chance to meet Oregon returned missionaries Brandon Bair, Mark Asper and Sam Doman, as well as Oregon Mormons Jennings Stewart and Ricky Heimuli.
"It's good to know the character they have and the standards they live by," Bostrom said. "I know they will play their hardest. After the game I will try to find them."
Doman, a senior tight end at Oregon, echoed the same sentiment by saying he looked forward to meeting Bostrom.
Bostrom, Doman, Bair and Asper have all traveled different paths to the BCS title game, but the common denominator is their commitment to serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bostrom, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound lineman from Nampa, Idaho, served his mission in Tacoma, Wash.
Doman, a 6-4, 234-pounder from Canby, Ore., served in the Dominican Republic.
Bair, a 6-7, 272-pound defensive tackle from St. Anthony, Idaho, served in Jacksonville, Fla.
Asper, a 6-7, 322-pound offensive lineman from Idaho Falls, Idaho, served in Barcelona, Spain.
All four married their sweethearts in an LDS temple. All three Ducks have ducklings: Doman and his wife, Rachel, have a son; Bair and his wife, Jordan, have two daughters; and Asper and his wife, Michelle, have two girls, and the youngest was born last month.
"I give Mark and Bair a hard time because they both have daughters, and I am always trying to betroth my son to one of them," Doman said.
While trying to provide for their families, earn degrees and play football, the four have done their best to fulfill church callings and be missionaries in the locker room. Bostrom is the first Mormon many of his teammates have ever met, so he has answered questions covering everything from polygamy to how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Invitations to speak at girls camp and firesides are also quite common. The message Bostrom shares is one of courage.
"Down here Mormons are the minority, so I tell them to be strong and confident in your faith and standings — don't give in to what others are doing," he said.
Asper, Bair and Doman have all been active participants in the Eugene, Ore., LDS Institute. Bair works with the Boy Scouts and teaches Sunday School lessons. Doman had a special calling in the singles ward before getting married to make sure all the LDS athletes at the University of Oregon were informed of activities and had a ride to church. He influenced one teammate to serve a mission, much to the coaches' dismay, and one Sunday he brought eight football players to church, according to Institute Director Paul Heiner.
"They are as fine of examples as you can find. Period," Heiner said. "That they are football players on top of that just makes them as doubly impressive to me. They are fabulous people and excellent examples."
As for Monday's national championship game, Bostrom, who wears No. 76, primarily plays special teams. He is listed as second on the depth chart at right guard.
Bair, who wears No. 88, starts on the defensive line and Asper, who wears No. 79, starts on the offensive line. Doman, who wears No. 38, is a transfer from BYU and is a seldom-used walk-on and likely won't play.
Freshman Heimuli and sophomore Stewart have also seen limited action this season.
"The biggest thing I have learned over my career is patience and that everything works out," Bostrom said. "(Coming to Auburn) has been a big blessing for me. How I got recruited here, not knowing if I would play after my mission; little things worked together to bring me here. Perseverance brings blessings."