BYU football: BYU quarterback Riley Nelson shows mental toughness pays off

By Mason Porter

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 4 2012 3:24 p.m. MDT

“Of course you want people to accept the message,” Nelson said. “You know it’s changed your life and you’ve seen it change other people’s lives. At the end of the day, you can’t control if they accept it or not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.”

Like many other missionaries, Nelson would put forth great effort to encourage investigators to live gospel principles. For example, Nelson said when he’d invite an investigator to attend church, he would not only call them the night before to remind them, but he’d also get up early the next morning to knock on their door and wake them up.

He remembers times when nobody would answer the door. Other times they would answer and say they were getting dressed, then promptly return to the comfort of their beds. Although it may have been disheartening, Nelson and his companions understood and accepted that at the end of the day, it was up to the investigators to make that choice.

“You can’t go in there and pick them up and drag them to church, but regardless of their decision, you have to continue to work hard and do your part,” Nelson said. “You keep talking to people and you keep working despite the conditions you’re in. You can’t start moping and miss out on contacting the next person who may be ready to hear the gospel.”

Just like stagnant investigators are no reason to sulk in the mission field, Nelson knows a bad play or a missed call on the gridiron isn’t something to sulk about. He realizes he can’t always control the circumstances he finds himself in and that his reaction to those situations will be a result of prior preparation.

“If you sit there and pout, you’ll get worse as a player and when an opportunity comes you aren’t in a position to take advantage of it,” Nelson said. “You’ve spent all that time feeling sorry for yourself instead of using it to get better.”

It’s clear Nelson’s perseverance and work ethic have helped him make the most of the opportunities afforded him. Along the way, he’s achieved many of the goals he set as an adolescent.

When he was in the eighth grade, Nelson wrote a letter to his future self for an English class assignment. Earlier this year, his teacher mailed it back to him.

The first thing it said was, “I hope you worked hard and got a D1 scholarship.”

Even as an eighth-grader, Nelson knew hard work and perseverance would be the key to attaining his goals. Not only has that philosophy helped him become a Division I quarterback; it’s also helped him persist through the bumps he’s met along the way.

As Nelson puts it, “Once you have a solid foundation and identity, sticking to it through the highs and lows will always be for the best.”

Mason Porter is a Sports Information Director for BYU Athletic Communications. Contact him at mretrop@gmail.com.

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