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From featured top BYU recruit to rugby drama in Australia, Mormon athletes making headlines

Published: Monday, Aug. 1 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Tanner Mangum (yellow jersey) participates in the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif., earlier this month. Mangum was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the camp's MVP.

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In recent news about LDS athletes, top college football recruits are receiving honors but sticking to their spiritual convictions, former BYU quarterback John Beck has a new nickname and Australian rugby coaches are upset upon hearing their missionary-to-be get ridiculed.

Football

BYU recruit Tanner Mangum of Eagle, Idaho, was briefly featured by Mitch Sherman of ESPN in his report of the Elite 11 in Malibu, Calif., a camp featuring top prep quarterbacks across the country. Sherman wrote about how Mangum still plans on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite receiving co-MVP honors in Malibu.

"I know that's where I need to go, so none of this changes that," he said. "It obviously makes me excited to get out this year and work for a state championship. But as far as the mission is concerned, I'm still going."

Mormon John Beck was recently dubbed the “Stormin’ Mormon” in a July 26 list from SB Nation, “NFL Lockout is Over: 10 Reasons to Get Excited for Football in 2011.” Andrew Sharp wrote about how entertaining it would be to witness the Washington Redskins’ poor play on the field with Beck as their likely starter.

“The ‘Skins find new and creative ways to make themselves a punchline every year, but this season should be especially good (or bad, if you’re a Redskins fan),” Sharp wrote.

Sharp further wrote that a poor on-field performance from Beck’s team this season could strengthen their chances to land coveted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who may have been the top pick in this past April’s NFL Draft had he not determined to return to school for his senior year.

Multiple publications have reported how the return of Hamani Stevens from serving a mission in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will help the University of Oregon football team as it gears to rebound from their last-second defeat against Auburn this past Jan. 10 in the BCS national championship game.

The Sporting News reported that Stevens is in a three-way battle for the starting center position against sophomore Karrington Armstrong and redshirt freshman Hroniss Grasu.

“I expect (Stevens) to be in the mix at that spot, and it’ll be good to have him in there, just to create that competition,” Ducks line coach Steve Greatwood told The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. “That center spot is something that’s a big question mark going into the fall. He just provides us another option.”

A story from The Portland Tribune also mentioned Stevens as part of a force that isn’t concerned about the changes they need to make to fit head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense.

“These are my guys,” said right guard Carson York, a junior. “I have all the faith in them. Some of our guys have to elevate their game. But (returnees) also have to step up and set a level of our own.”

An update from Corvallis, Ore., about the Oregon State football team said that defensive end Elisinoa Aleusi is one of two freshman not working out with the team now or is enrolled in summer classes because he will soon be serving a Mormon mission.

Further south along the coast, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told reporters at the Pac-12 Media Day June 26 that he has kept in touch with the father of offensive tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo, who began serving an LDS mission following the 2009 season. Su’a-Filo, who started every game at left tackle that season, “can’t wait to come back,” Neuheisel said.

Baseball

Baseball headlines have recently included Mormon players as well. Two separate features have surfaced about Taylor Cole, a returned missionary and 2011 Toronto Blue Jays amateur draft pick.

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