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Mormon athletes pay tribute to their fathers

Published: Sunday, June 15 2014 11:19 a.m. MDT

Former major league baseball player Brian Banks, middle, with his parents Jackie and Glen Banks and baby son Davis.

Provided by Brian Banks

Fatherhood is an emotional topic for Thurl Bailey.

The former NBA basketball player is worried that his father’s time might be short. Carl Bailey is now in his mid-80s and has survived three strokes.

“All those memories rushed at me,” Bailey said in an interview with the Deseret News. “When he’s gone, that’s all I’m going to have.”

Bailey grew up in a home with five children during the civil rights era in Washington, D.C. When Thurl was a baby, a brick wall fell on his father at a construction site. He eventually recovered but could no longer work, as detailed in a 2003 Deseret News article.

“It was hard enough to make ends meet,” Bailey said. “Mom and Dad were always strong, but my dad’s role was to make his sons say what they mean, mean what they say.”

Bailey learned many life lessons from his father. The happiest memories came when he took him to a ball game or a nearby creek with a bamboo fishing pole. Another time, Bailey’s father pulled up some weeds in the yard and built a makeshift basketball hoop out of household materials.

“He proceeded to teach me, through basketball, lessons about life, little things, like the importance of preparation, focus and being coachable,” Bailey said. “I knew that he wasn’t just talking about basketball, he was preparing me for life. I cherish those moments I have with my dad. I hope my legacy is half of what his will be to me.”

With Father's Day approaching, Bailey is one of seven Mormon athletes who shared a tribute to their fathers and other influential male figures in their lives. NFL receiver Austin Collie, Olympic bronze medalist Chris Fogt, Kansas City pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace, NFL linebacker Bryan Kehl and retired major league baseball player Brian Banks also shared their stories and experiences.

They all echo the idea shared by Elder L. Tom Perry in his April 2004 general conference talk: "Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it will always be so."

Austin Collie

Not surprisingly, the last three years have been the hardest of Austin Collie’s football career.

After a stellar rookie season in Indianapolis in which he established himself as one of quarterback Peyton Manning’s go-to receivers and played in the Super Bowl, a series of three concussions and a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee threatened to end the former BYU receiver’s career. Last season, he failed to make San Francisco’s opening-day roster and was cut twice by New England before rejoining the Patriots in time for the NFL playoffs, where he contributed in two postseason games.

In his supportive circle of family and friends, Collie said it was his father, Scott Collie, whose quiet reassurance helped Austin believe in himself during those turbulent times.

“The last three years have probably been the most trying time I have ever had, as far as dealing with the concussions and the massive speed bump thrown in my way. There have been times of doubt and (asking), 'Am I going to play again? Am I ever going to get back to where I was?' ” Austin Collie said in an interview with the Deseret News. “He would reassure me. Every time I would talk to him, he would say, ‘You still got it. Stay in it. Your number is going to get called. Stay in it.’ That kind of stuff, when you’re my age, goes a long way.”

Collie said there were days when he wanted to go through the motions in practice. In those moments, he would hear his father’s voice, and it inspired him to elevate his efforts.

“It was just enough for me, to help me stay with it,” Collie said.

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