Editor's note: This week, the Deseret News takes an in-depth look at how football coaches balance the demands of their profession with commitments to their faith.
Monday: Justin Anderson, Nicholls State
Tuesday: Ed Lamb, Southern Utah University
Today: Steve Kaufusi, BYU
Friday: Coaches and Christianity
PROVO — When Steve Kaufusi hears members of his ward voice uncertainty about their ability to serve in a church calling, he understands the feeling.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” said Kaufusi, who is in his 13th season as a defensive line coach for the Brigham Young University football team.
The reaction Kaufusi sees is often immediate, considering that — as bishop of the Provo 226th Young Single Adult Ward — he is the one issuing the call.
Yes, with all the long hours, pressure and travel that come with being an assistant coach on a Football Bowl Subdivision staff, Kaufusi still finds time to serve as the bishop of a young single adult ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near the BYU campus.
And, yes, he wasn’t sure if he could do it at first.
“My initial thought, when the stake president came to see me, was, ‘Does he even know what my schedule is like?’ ” Kaufusi said during an interview with the Deseret News that was sandwiched between a late morning practice and a team photo shoot. “But then I immediately repented, because I know better. This is what the Lord wants me to do right now, and so I’ll do it.”
Kaufusi, who played for the Cougars in the 1980s before beginning his coaching career in 1994 at the University of Utah, has been shouldering this responsibility for the past two and a half years. At the time of his call, he had already spent two years as a counselor to a bishop in a different YSA ward.
Kaufusi and his family live near the BYU campus and Provo Missionary Training Center. The tens of thousands of young adults in the area who are attending school or beginning their full-time missions create a significant need for priesthood leadership from the surrounding Mormon wards.
“When I first moved into our (home) ward, I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of widows here,’ ” Kaufusi said. But in reality, many of the men were serving at the MTC or in YSA wards. When Kaufusi was called as a first counselor in a bishopric, he "felt like this was my time to do my part," he said.
Being called as a bishop himself was more daunting. But his years of service have built up both his faith in the gospel and his confidence in his ability to serve in whatever capacity he's asked. The key, he said, is jumping in with both feet.
“You learn your duties and it kind of eases up because now (you think), ‘OK, I can do this,’ ” he said. “It has really built my own testimony and my own faith. I can do whatever I’m asked to do — any calling in the church. Whatever they would have me do, I wouldn’t hesitate.
“This is the Lord’s work. Just when you think you can’t do it, you can. It’s always been surprising to me, just being able to find the time to do everything. It amazes me. I don’t think he’s going to let me fail as long as I’m doing my part.”
Kaufusi said his family has experienced many blessings during the time he's spent in YSA ward bishoprics. Two sons, Bronson and Corbin, both BYU athletes, have served full-time LDS Church missions. The family also witnessed oldest daughter Alexis, a former BYU basketball player, successfully battle stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
His youngest two children, son Devin and daughter Daryl, are currently high school students at Timpview and have both expressed desires to serve full-time missions.
"My job is to raise my kids to be resilient and work through problems and go serve the Lord," said Kaufusi, who also plans to serve a mission someday with his wife, Michelle.
Kaufusi looks up to the members of his home ward, many of who have served multiple missions, and often asks himself: “Who am I? I haven’t even done anything.” But in the meantime, he plans to give his best effort in balancing professional, eccelesiastical and family responsibilites.
“You do the best you can,” he said. “The Lord knows how hard (it is) and how busy everybody is. You do the best you can, and he carries you the rest of the way. I’m a big believer.”