BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe tells about his Mormon conversion

Published: Thursday, July 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe poses for a photo at LaVell Edwards Stadium Thursday, May 12, 2011.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

“And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins” (Enos 1:2).

PROVO — During his seven-year NFL career in San Francisco, Tom Holmoe played on three Super Bowl championship teams and later earned a fourth ring as an assistant coach with the 49ers. He was also a member of the BYU squad that pulled off an incredible comeback victory against Southern Methodist University in the 1980 Holiday Bowl.

As thrilling, dramatic and blissful as those accomplishments were, they just don’t compare to another life-changing event that transpired in 1988: Holmoe’s decision to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“At the time we won our first Super Bowl, the feeling was joy,” he said. “We had worked so hard for something that was so difficult to achieve, and we did it. That lasted for a while. But your conversion to the gospel is eternal. I felt a sweeter spirit.”

Now BYU’s athletics director, Holmoe’s long road to church membership started in high school and stretched until late in his NFL career. Along the way, key people influenced his life in ways that helped him to make the critical decision.

“It was a wrestling match,” Holmoe said recently at BYU football media day. “I wanted to feel it for a long time, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I wasn’t humble enough. I tried, but half-heartedly. I thought about it all the time. It was yes-no-yes-no. I saw guys at BYU get baptized for girls, but when the girls were gone, the church was gone. I wasn’t going to have that. I wanted to do it for the right reason. I told my wife, ‘Honey, if I do this, it’s forever. I’m going to do it on my terms, not for anybody else.’ ”

True examples

Before Holmoe knew anything about the church or BYU, he knew the Hales.

Klane Hales played with Holmoe on the Crescenta Valley High School basketball team in Southern California. Klane’s little sister, Kathy, participated with Holmoe in student government. He was also acquainted with the rest of the family and admired them all, he said.

“I looked to them as a great example,” Holmoe said. “They didn’t really try to teach me the gospel. They did in essence through their example.”

Holmoe recalls going with the basketball team to Las Vegas for a tournament his junior year. During some free time, the team ventured out for some excitement on the Vegas Strip. Holmoe said Hales went along to make sure he didn’t get into any trouble.

“He told everybody, ‘I’m not going in there for these reasons, and you can’t go there. Don’t go there.’ Everybody went, and I stayed,” Holmoe said. “Why did I stay? He had power at that time to convince me to stay. I’ll never forget that.”

Years later, when Holmoe was a senior at BYU, Hales mustered the courage to share his testimony and feelings about the church before leaving for medical school. It was something he had always wanted to do but feared it would ruin their friendship.

“It was powerful and I thanked him,” Holmoe said. “Those seeds that he planted definitely were a part of moving me along, because I needed to be dragged.”

Choosing BYU

Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Holmoe was a huge UCLA fan. He wanted to follow in his older brother Steve’s footsteps and earn a scholarship to play for the Bruins.

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