Vai's View: Vai's View: A hard-working young man with a great opportunity

Published: Friday, July 20 2012 6:09 p.m. MDT

Initially, they moved in with his in-laws as they awaited the baby and he looked for work. I introduced him to all my contacts in the financial world, but none worked out. On his own, David landed a job with the Social Security Agency in Philadelphia as an analyst. He worked for the Federal Government for a year until one of my contacts, David Cohen, chairman of Sage Financial, a family-owned financial firm in Philadelphia, had an opening. David and Melissa moved to Philly to be closer to the new job.

While in Philly, David met an executive with Merrill Lynch at his LDS ward. The executive was impressed enough that he offered David a job with more pay and more responsibilities. Armed with three years of work experience with the Social Security Agency, Sage Financial and Merrill Lynch, he started the application process for an MBA last fall.

He visited Harvard, Penn's Wharton School of Business, Columbia, UCLA, Kellogg and had already been accepted to BYU's Marriott School. Columbia was never a fit so he didn't apply, but was denied at Harvard and Wharton — but most people are. He was accepted at UCLA and Kellogg in addition to BYU.

As his choices narrowed, David focused in more and more on Kellogg. "I just loved the atmosphere and actually felt more comfortable at Kellogg than even the Ivy League schools," David told me. "So much more of their program is graded, it seems, on teamwork. Teamwork is highly prized at Kellogg."

He connected with the professors he met. He loved Chicago where his former teammate and cousin Harvey Unga is now playing for the Bears and another former BYU teammate and fellow safety K.C. Bills is in his final year at Kellogg and is president of the LDS MBA students association. David said Kellogg's program is better suited for what he wants to do — investment banking — and best of all, David was awarded the prestigious Toigo Fellowship scholarship, given to the top 50 minority MBA candidates, specifically in finance, in the country.

"A big part of being part of being at Kellogg is their alumni outreach," David said. "Even among the top MBA schools, Kellogg is highly regarded because of their alumni."

One of whom I met nearly 20 years ago in Tokyo, Japan.

My wife and I were sent by the Philadelphia Eagles in May 1993 to Tokyo for a weeklong publicity tour for a preseason game we would play in August against the New Orleans Saints. The game was sponsored by Suntory, Japan's biggest beer and spirits company. On our second night, we were hosted by Suntory at a banquet that included their top executives, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife, Chandler, other league officers and members of the New Orleans Saints.

My wife Keala and I were seated next to Suntory's CEO, Shinichiro Shin Torii, who spoke fluent English. Before each of us seated at the head table were Suntory products so I motioned for our waiter to remove them as Keala and I didn't drink, nor did I want to be photographed with them.

Overhearing my comments, Shinichiro Shin asked me if I was a Mormon.

I was stunned. "Yes," I stammered.

"Did you attend BYU?" he asked.

"Yes, how did you know?" I doubted he read my bio in the Eagles media guide.

"I came to America in the late '50s to get my education at Northwestern near Chicago," Shinichiro Shin told me. "My roommate was a boy from Utah who was a BYU graduate. He didn't drink alcohol, tea or coffee, nor did he smoke. He was a little older and Kellogg paired us because he served a mission to Japan and was fluent in Japanese. He was a great example of your school and your faith."

The opportunities before you, David, are enormous. Make a difference. Be like that anonymous Northwestern student who left a lasting, positive impression on Shinichiro Shin Torii, a Japanese beer company CEO.

You are headed to an elite institution. Be disciplined. Work and pray as you always have in your athletic career, your mission and your jobs. The Lord has guided your path and prepared you for this moment. You are being trained and educated so you can serve — civically and in the Church — not to make a fortune, though that may follow. Focus on that and the rest will just happen. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

Go seize it.

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