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From featured top BYU recruit to rugby drama in Australia, Mormon athletes making headlines

Published: Monday, Aug. 1 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Tanner Mangum (yellow jersey) participates in the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif., earlier this month. Mangum was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the camp's MVP. (Deseret News archive) Tanner Mangum (yellow jersey) participates in the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif., earlier this month. Mangum was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the camp's MVP. (Deseret News archive)

In recent news about LDS athletes, top college football recruits are receiving honors but sticking to their spiritual convictions, former BYU quarterback John Beck has a new nickname and Australian rugby coaches are upset upon hearing their missionary-to-be get ridiculed.

Football

BYU recruit Tanner Mangum of Eagle, Idaho, was briefly featured by Mitch Sherman of ESPN in his report of the Elite 11 in Malibu, Calif., a camp featuring top prep quarterbacks across the country. Sherman wrote about how Mangum still plans on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite receiving co-MVP honors in Malibu.

"I know that's where I need to go, so none of this changes that," he said. "It obviously makes me excited to get out this year and work for a state championship. But as far as the mission is concerned, I'm still going."

Tanner Mangum, who has verbally committed to BYU, was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the MVP of the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif. (Deseret News archive) Tanner Mangum, who has verbally committed to BYU, was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the MVP of the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif. (Deseret News archive)

Mormon John Beck was recently dubbed the “Stormin’ Mormon” in a July 26 list from SB Nation, “NFL Lockout is Over: 10 Reasons to Get Excited for Football in 2011.” Andrew Sharp wrote about how entertaining it would be to witness the Washington Redskins’ poor play on the field with Beck as their likely starter.

“The ‘Skins find new and creative ways to make themselves a punchline every year, but this season should be especially good (or bad, if you’re a Redskins fan),” Sharp wrote.

Sharp further wrote that a poor on-field performance from Beck’s team this season could strengthen their chances to land coveted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who may have been the top pick in this past April’s NFL Draft had he not determined to return to school for his senior year.

Multiple publications have reported how the return of Hamani Stevens from serving a mission in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will help the University of Oregon football team as it gears to rebound from their last-second defeat against Auburn this past Jan. 10 in the BCS national championship game.

Tanner Mangum, who has verbally committed to BYU, was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the MVP of the Elite Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif. (Deseret News archive) Tanner Mangum, who has verbally committed to BYU, was featured on ESPN.com for mentioning that he is still fully planning on serving a mission after he graduates from high school next year, despite being honored July 22 as the MVP of the Elite Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif. (Deseret News archive)

The Sporting News reported that Stevens is in a three-way battle for the starting center position against sophomore Karrington Armstrong and redshirt freshman Hroniss Grasu.

“I expect (Stevens) to be in the mix at that spot, and it’ll be good to have him in there, just to create that competition,” Ducks line coach Steve Greatwood told The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. “That center spot is something that’s a big question mark going into the fall. He just provides us another option.”

A story from The Portland Tribune also mentioned Stevens as part of a force that isn’t concerned about the changes they need to make to fit head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense.

“These are my guys,” said right guard Carson York, a junior. “I have all the faith in them. Some of our guys have to elevate their game. But (returnees) also have to step up and set a level of our own.”

Washington Redskins quarterbacks (from left, Richard Bartel, Donovan McNabb and John Beck) gather at the NFL football team's training camp at Redskins Park, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010, in Ashburn, Va. Beck has recently been titled Washington Redskins quarterbacks (from left, Richard Bartel, Donovan McNabb and John Beck) gather at the NFL football team's training camp at Redskins Park, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010, in Ashburn, Va. Beck has recently been titled "The Stormin' Mormon" in a story that predicted his team would be among the worst in the NFL this season. (Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press)

An update from Corvallis, Ore., about the Oregon State football team said that defensive end Elisinoa Aleusi is one of two freshman not working out with the team now or is enrolled in summer classes because he will soon be serving a Mormon mission.

Further south along the coast, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told reporters at the Pac-12 Media Day June 26 that he has kept in touch with the father of offensive tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo, who began serving an LDS mission following the 2009 season. Su’a-Filo, who started every game at left tackle that season, “can’t wait to come back,” Neuheisel said.

Baseball

Baseball headlines have recently included Mormon players as well. Two separate features have surfaced about Taylor Cole, a returned missionary and 2011 Toronto Blue Jays amateur draft pick.

Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck talks to media after a workout at the NFL football team's training camp at Redskins Park,  Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010, in Ashburn, Va. Beck has recently been titled Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck talks to media after a workout at the NFL football team's training camp at Redskins Park, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010, in Ashburn, Va. Beck has recently been titled "The Stormin' Mormon" in a story that predicted that his team would be among the worst in the NFL this season. (Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press)

Cole, who served eastern Canada, said he couldn’t have been better pleased with the circumstances that the selection placed him. The Blue Jays franchise is located within his former mission boundaries.

“It was too good to be true,” Cole told The Province in British Columbia. “When they selected me, it almost felt like a Cinderella story.

“I grew up to love the country, I grew to love the people. The whole time, I was thinking, ‘What if I could go back there and play?’”

Cole posted a 2.99 ERA in 16 appearances with BYU last season.

The Kingston Whig Standard reported that Cole will be wed to Madilyn Fitzpatrick Dec. 2 in the Las Vegas Temple.

A Mormon Night was July 22 at Dodger Stadium, one of five faith-themed games held at the stadium this season, the Daily News wire report said.

Former National League MVP and stake president Dale Murphy spoke at a youth conference July 21 at State College of Florida, reported Jeff Rice of the Centre Daily Times. Speaking at the conference, as well as several other speaking engagements that Murphy is involved with, is a pleasure for him, he said.

“For kids growing up in the Mormon church and not always knowing public figures who share similar beliefs, I think it’s always great to see that there are other people out there who think about things the same way you do,” Murphy said.

Rugby

In the land Down Under, The Australian reported that although Mormon Will Hopoate is soon to be serving a mission of his own, his current rugby club, Manly, is looking to contract him through his service so that he remains a part of the team upon his return to Australia.

The news of the likely transactions followed a Syndey Morning Herald report about Manly official Peter Peters defending his star player after Scott McRae — an on-field announcer for Penrith, Manly’s July 24 opponent — had allegedly made a derogatory comment about Hopoate.

''There was an insinuation about Hoppa, and the kid doesn't deserve that,'' Peters said. ''Saying 'typical Hoppa' and things like that. Saying, 'You're going to have to yell louder than that for us to get a penalty,' I think is degrading.

''There were comments made the whole game. Before the game, even inciting our fans, saying, 'Manly people here, it's a bit out of your way, you don't travel.'

''It's just unsportsmanlike stuff that shouldn't be mentioned. A great club like Penrith doesn't deserve that. I don't know who he is, but he shouldn't be behind a microphone.

Email: rwilkinson@desnews.com

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