Editor's note: This week, the Deseret News takes an in-depth look at how college football coaches balance the demands of their profession with commitments to their faith.
Today: Justin Anderson, Nicholls State
Tuesday: Ed Lamb, Southern Utah University
Wednesday: Steve Kaufusi, BYU
Friday: Coaches and Christianity
THIBADAUX, La. — It’s been a little over a year now since Justin Anderson’s life changed in a unique way.
The Orem, Utah, native was already pretty busy as an assistant football coach for the Nicholls State Colonels in addition to being a husband and father of five young children.
Then in May 2013, the former BYU wide receiver was called to be the bishop of an LDS ward in the Houma-Thibadaux area, a happening that was chronicled in a feature story by The Courier in Houma, Louisiana.
Balancing his new ecclesiastical duties in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his coaching career and a large family has been a learning experience to say the least, Anderson said.
“To this point, it has been one of the hardest things in my life,” Anderson said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “It has helped me to grow. It has stretched me a lot. There is not a lot of free time. I feel lucky to have a head coach who understands the demands and is willing to work with me.”
Anderson is referring to Nicholls State head coach Charlie Stubbs, who is also an active member of the LDS Church and happens to be in the same ward. Over his extensive coaching career, Stubbs has also served in various church callings, including as a counselor to a bishop during a coaching stint at the University of Alabama.
“He has given me some good advice,” Anderson said. “I love football, but my family and my faith come first. Coaching is behind that. I don’t know if you can find a perfect balance, but I try to give my full focus to wherever I am.”
One recent experience provided a glimpse into Anderson’s hectic schedule. He called Stubbs to ask if he could come home one night off the recruiting trail to attend his daughter’s talent show and take care of some ecclesiastical business at the church. He would then be back on the road the next morning by 4 a.m. Stubbs approved the request and Anderson was able to comply.
“It was a long day,” Anderson said. “But I was able to get it all done.”
Each year, a local pastor is asked to say the invocation and benediction at graduation commencement exercises. When Anderson showed up in a suit and tie, having been invited to pray, he said people on campus were surprised to learn about his religious responsibilities. Anderson was happy to explain it to them
As assistant head coach over the wide receivers and tight ends, Anderson also does his best to mentor and set a good example for his players. When he gets upset, he uses intimidating verbal assaults like “turkey” and “knucklehead,” he said.
“They love to tease me,” Anderson said. “But I think it’s refreshing for them to get a different perspective.”
As the Colonels prepare for their season opener at Air Force, Anderson is grateful for what he has gained over the last year and excited for whatever lies ahead.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I think (being a bishop) has made me better in a million ways,” Anderson said. “You do your best; it’s all you can do. I know God will put me where I’m supposed to be, and I don’t stress about it. Things will work out the way they are supposed to."
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