Mormons in Sports blog: Gymnast makes national team, and RM saves a life

Published: Saturday, Dec. 31 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

Take Mitch Mustain, for example. Mustain was once the best high school football player in the country after leading Springdale High in Arkansas to a 14-0 season and a state championship. As a true freshman at Arkansas, his stats weren’t impressive, but the young Razorback was 8-0 in games he started in 2006. His potential was limitless.

In 2007, Mustain transferred to USC. Why? A soap opera.

Coach Houston Nutt’s decision to go with a run-oriented offense sparked the departure of several players and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Mustain’s former high school coach. The drama included nasty emails and spirited meetings between coaches and parents.

But Mustain never saw the field at USC. He sat out 2007 for the transfer. In 2008, he rode the bench behind Mark Sanchez. In 2009 and 2010, Matt Barkley was the starter. He had off-the-field problems, according to the L.A. Times. Mustain’s only start came in his second-to-last game against Notre Dame, which the Trojans lost, 20-16. After USC, he signed a 10-day contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL. Then he signed with the AFL’s Georgia Force. Now he works for a friend’s car dealership in Bentonville, Ark., according to USA Today.

Heaps could have taken a lesson from the personal playbook of New England quarterback Tom Brady, who didn’t transfer when things became competitive. In this 2008 ESPN.com article, Greg Garber said Brady was last on a list of seven quarterbacks at Michigan in 1995. In 1997, Brady lost a spirited competition with Brian Griese for the starting job and he seriously considered a transfer to Cal, back home. After a long talk with Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr, Brady decided to stay. His problems weren’t over. Before he was finished at Michigan, he had to fight and battle to conquer the legend of freshman Drew Henson.

What if Mustain had stayed at Arkansas? What if Brady had transferred to Cal? What if Heaps had stayed at BYU?

I hope Heaps knows what he’s doing.

What I find most fascinating about Brady’s decision to stay at Michigan are the lessons he gained in building character and embracing adversity. Those are two lessons Heaps might benefit from at some point in his life. As Helen Keller put it, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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