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Returned Mormon missionaries in college football, Part 2

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 3:31 p.m. MDT

Stephen Atrice, an Air Force linebacker, served an LDS mission to Puerto Rico. (Colorado Springs Gazette) Stephen Atrice, an Air Force linebacker, served an LDS mission to Puerto Rico. (Colorado Springs Gazette)

Air Force linebacker Stephan Atrice used to dream about being a football star. The idea of serving an LDS mission was light years away.

“Mission, shmission,” Atrice told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I didn’t even think about it.”

Then his big brother collapsed and died in a boxing ring.

Suddenly football wasn’t as important. Atrice became more serious about life and spirituality. His brother’s tragic death eventually led Atrice to want to serve a mission, and he was called to Puerto Rico and other locations in the Caribbean islands. Not only did he spread the gospel, but he said he found personal peace.

Atrice is one of more than 100 college football players in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season who have served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker shared details of his life and mission with writer Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette last April:

Walker Atrice III, a Golden Glove boxer and former University of Georgia football player, felt winded during a boxing match in March 2008. When the fight stopped, the 30-year-old couldn’t catch his breath and died in the arena. There were no warning signs and the autopsy revealed nothing.

Stephan idolized his brother and took his death hard. That’s when his father said he changed. Serving a mission helped him cope with his brother’s death and he returned with a different focus in life.

“I believe God put me on this Earth to do something great,” Atrice told the Gazette. “Before … it was, ‘Do whatever it takes to get on the field.’ Now I don’t feel that way. I feel, ‘Do whatever it takes to make a difference.’”

Atrice has made 18 tackles and recovered one fumble this season.

An Aggie in Ghana

New Mexico State defensive lineman David Niumatalolo said he thinks about his mission every day.

“It was a great experience,” Niumatalolo said in an October interview with the Albuquerque Journal. “The best two years of my life so far.”

Niumatalolo is one of three Aggies who served LDS missions. Teammates Maveu Heimuli (offensive line) and B.J. Adolpho (linebacker) also left football to share the gospel.

Niumatalolo played two seasons (2005 and 2006) at New Mexico State before he embarked on a two-year mission to Ghana, Africa. The majority of his time was spent preaching the gospel and performing service, but he included 30 minutes of daily exercise. He didn’t think about football for about 18 months, he told the Albuquerque Journal.

When Niumatalolo left, he weighed 265 pounds. When he came back he was 210. It was a challenge to regain the weight. He redshirted in 2009 and played a limited role in 2010. This season the senior has returned to full strength. As the season draws to a close, Niumatalolo, a 4.0 biology major, has recorded 60 tackles, seven sacks, forced one fumble and recovered one fumble.

After football, the 25-year-old Niumatalolo wants to use his education to bless the African people.

“Seeing all that suffering (there), I want to do something in the medical field,” he said in the Albuquerque Journal. “The mission kind of sparked the interest in that field.”

Journey to N.C. State

McKay Frandsen’s journey from high school to North Carolina State has had more twists and turns than a canyon highway.

The defensive end from American Fork spent a semester at BYU, went on a two-year mission to Alaska and played two seasons at Snow College before arriving in Raleigh, N.C., with his wife, Kirsti.

But Frandsen, the Wolfpack’s 6-foot-2, 250-pound starting left defensive end, has enjoyed the journey.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Frandsen told JP Giglio of the North Carolina News Observer in August.

Following his mission, Frandsen returned to walk on at BYU. During spring practice, he felt junior college would be a better fit for him.

After performing well at Snow College for two seasons, Frandsen struggled to grasp North Carolina State’s defensive schemes. He told the News Observer he was “overwhelmed.” His coach, N.C. State assistant Keith Willis, said he “struggled.”

Frandsen kept working and played well in spring drills. The coaches liked his work ethic and awarded him with a starting spot.

Frandsen, a science technology major, has posted 15 tackles and two pass deflections this year.

BYU (77)

Name, hometown, class, position, mission

Michael Alisa, Provo, Utah (Timpview HS), So., RB (Puerto Rico San Juan)

Famika Anae, Provo, Utah (Timpview HS), Fr., OL (Texas McAllen)

Tyler Beck, Murrieta, Calif. (Vista Murrieta HS), So., LB (Texas Houston)

Kevan Bills, Provo, Utah (Timpview HS), Fr., LB (Argentina Mendoza)

Justin Blackmore, West Jordan, Utah (West Jordan HS), Fr., DL (Pennsylvania Harrisburg)

Braden Brown, Salt Lake City (Highland HS), Jr., OL (Puerto Rico San Juan)

Rhen Brown, Alpine, Utah (Lone Peak HS), Jr., WR (Argentina Salta)

Terence Brown, Summerville, S.C., Sr., OL (Brazil Maceio)

Trevor Brown, Provo, Utah (Timpview HS), Fr., TE (Croatia Slovenia)

Robbie Buckner, Ashdown, Ark. (Ashdown HS), Jr., DB (Mozambique Maputo)

Nate Carter, St. George, Utah (Dixie HS), Fr., RB (Taiwan Taipei)

Cameron Comer, Springville, Utah (Springville HS), Fr., DB (Virginia Richmond)

Tanner Cox, Pleasant View, Utah (Weber HS), Fr., LB (Mongolia Ulaanbaatar)

Dallin Cutler, Draper, Utah (Alta HS), So., WR (Costa Rica San Jose)

Ian Dulan, Hilo, Hawaii (Kamehameha HS), Sr., DL (Illinois Peoria)

Matthew Edwards, N. Salt Lake City, Utah (Woods Cross HS), Sr., TE (Maryland Baltimore)

Hebron Fangupo, Santa Ana, Calif. (Santa Ana HS), Sr., DL (Philippines Manila)

Ryan Folsom, Medford, Ore. (N. Medford HS), So., RB (Korea Seoul West)

David Foote, Washington, Utah (Pine View HS), Jr., RB (Colombia Bogota North)

Jameson Frazier, Draper, Utah (Alta HS), Sr., LB (Canada Montreal)

Ryan Freeman, Orem, Utah (Orem HS), Jr., OL (Chile Santiago North)

Kaneakua Friel, Kaneohe, Hawaii (Kamehamaha HS), So., TE (South Africa Durban)

Romney Fuga, Huntington Beach, Calif. (Edison HS), Jr., DL (Madagascar Antananarivo)

Preston Hadley, Pleasant Grove, Utah (Pleasant Grove HS), Jr., DB (New York, New York South)

Spencer Hadley, Connell, Wash. (Connell HS), So., LB (California Roseville)

Spencer Hafoka, Kahuku, Hawaii (Kahuku HS), Sr., WR (California Ventura)

Mike Hague, Salt Lake City (Brighton HS), Jr., DB (Tennessee Knoxville)

Braden Hansen, Sandy, Utah (Alta HS), Jr, OL (Pennsylvania Philadelphia)

Connell Hess, Boise, Idaho (Capital HS), Jr., LB (Virginia Richmond)

Adam Hine, Santa Clara, Utah (Snow Canyon HS), Fr., RB (Panama)

Austin Holt, South Jordan, Utah (Bingham HS), So., TE (Missouri St. Louis)

Reed Hornung, Anoka, Minn. (Snow College), Jr., Deep Snapper (Jamaica Kingston)

McKay Jacobson, Southlake, Texas (Southlake Carroll HS), Sr., WR (Japan Sapporo)

Austen Jorgensen, Mt. Pleasant, Utah (N. Sanpete HS), Jr., LB (Florida Tampa)

Solomone Kafu, Rio Linda, Calif. (Rio Linda HS), Fr., OL (New York, New York)

Walter Kahaiali'i, Lahaina, Hawaii (Kamehameha-Maui HS), Jr., DL (Australia Melbourne)

Bryan Kariya, Kaysville, Utah (Davis HS), Sr., RB (Australia Melbourne)

Teu Kautai, Arlington, Texas (Oakridge HS), Fr., DB (California San Jose)

James Lark, St. George, Utah (Pine View HS), Jr., QB (Russia St. Petersburg)

Aveni Leung-Wai, Aiea, Hawaii (Grossmont Jr. College), Sr., LB (New York Rochester)

Devin Mahina, Upland, Calif. (Upland HS), So., TE (Madagascar Antananarivo)

Eathyn Manumaleuna, Anchorage, Alaska (Timpview HS), Jr., DL (Oklahoma, Oklahoma City)

Marcus Mathews, Beaverton, Ore. (Southridge HS), So., TE (Sweden Stockholm)

Carter Mees, St. George, Utah (Pine View HS), Jr., DB (Texas Houston South)

Zed Mendenhall, Alpine, Utah (Lone Peak HS), Jr., RB (Brazil Santa Maria)

Cody Monsen, Brownwood, Texas (Temple HS), Fr., LB (California Santa Rosa)

Rex Morgan, Greely, Col. (Greely West HS), Fr., WR (Russia Moscow)

Terrance Motley, Albuquerque, N.M. (Cibola HS), Fr., OL (Italy Milan)

Mike Muehlmann, American Fork, Utah (Am. Fork HS), So., DL (Texas San Antonio)

Jason Munns, Kennewick, Wash. (Southridge HS), So., QB (Mexico Oaxaca)

Riley Nelson, Logan, Utah (Logan HS), Jr., QB (Spain Barcelona)

Austin Nielsen, Glendale, Ariz. (Sandra O’Conner HS), Jr., LB (Washington Tacoma)

Brandon Ogletree, McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS), Jr., LB (Chile Concepcion)

Chase Pendley, Sandy, Utah (Skyline HS), So., DB (Korea Busan)

Skye Povey, Ogden, Utah (Snow College), So., DB (Dominican Republic)

Iona Pritchard, South Jordan, Utah (Bingham HS), So., RB (Marshall Islands Majuro)

Seth Probert, Lebanon, Ore. (Lebanon HS), Fr., LB (Florida Jacksonville)

Matt Putnam, Brigham City, Utah (Box Elder HS), Sr., DL (Texas McAllen)

Cody Raymond, Sandy, Utah (Jordan HS), Fr., WR (New York, New York North)

Houston Reynolds, Provo, Utah (Timpview HS), So., OL (Germany Frankfurt)

Matt Reynolds, Provo, Utah (Timpview HS), Sr., OL (Germany Munich)

Jordan Richardson, Idaho Falls, Idaho (Bonneville HS), Jr., DL (Brazil Belo Horizante)

Skyler Ridley, Murrieta, Calif. (Murrieta Valley HS), So., WR (England Manchester)

Brian Smith, Orem, Utah (Mountain View HS), So., K/P (Mexico Monterrey)

Jordan Smith, Salem, Utah (Spanish Fork HS), So., WR (Massachusetts Boston)

Daniel Sorensen, Colton, Calif., (Colton HS), So., DB (Costa Rica San Jose)

Justin Sorensen, South Jordan, Utah (Bingham HS), So., K (Georgia Macon)

Riley Stephenson, St. George, Utah (Pine View HS), Jr., K/P (New Zealand Auckland)

Brock Stringham, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Mountain Vista HS), Fr., OL (Philippines Tacloban)

Marco Thorson, Ramona, Calif. (Ramona HS), Sr., OL (Chile Rancagua)

Dalin Tollestrup, Raymond, Alberta (University of Calgary), Jr., WR (El Salvador West/Belize)

Travis Uale, Hawaii Kai, Hawaii (Kamehameha HS), Sr., DB (Mexico Monterrey)

Uani Unga, Rochester, Calif. (Oregon State), Jr., LB (Guatemala)

Manaaki Vaitai, Euless, Texas (Trinity HS), So., OL (Nevada Las Vegas)

Simote Vea, Hau'ula, Hawaii (BYU-Hawaii), Sr., DL (Mexico Puebla)

Jadon Wagner, Lethbridge, Alberta (LCI), Jr., LB (Colorado Denver)

Michael Yeck, Keller, Texas (Keller HS), Fr., OL (Alabama Birmingham)

UTAH (17)

Tony Bergstrom, Salt Lake City (Skyline HS), Sr., OL (California Sacramento)

Greg Bird, Mesa, Ariz. (Red Mountain HS), Sr., DB (Michigan Detroit)

Parker Cracroft, Salt Lake City, Utah (Snow College), So., DB

David Fagergren, Salt Lake City (Highland HS), Jr., LB

Sean Fitzgerald, Mission Viejo, Calif. (Mission Viejo HS), Fr., WR

Kenneth Golloday, Mesa, Ariz. (Eastern Arizona), Sr., K

Mike Honeycutt, Cedar Hills, Utah (Lone Peak HS), So., DB

Griffin McNabb, Pocatello, Idaho (Highland HS), Idaho, Fr., WR (Colombia)

Jake Murphy, Alpine, Utah (American Fork HS), Fr., TE (Australia)

Trevor Reilly, Valley Center, Calif. (Valley Center High), Fr., DE (Sweden)

Griff Robles, Spanish Fork, Utah (Sp. Fork HS), So., QB

Dallin Rogers, Placerville, Calif. (Union Mine HS), Jr., TE (Florida Tallahassee)

Tevita Stevens, Hemet, Calif. (Hemet HS), Jr., OL (New York)

Westlee Tonga, Spring, Texas (Spring HS), So., TE/FB (Nevada Las Vegas)

Tauni Vakapuna, North Salt Lake, Utah (Hunter HS, Dixie State), Sr., RB (Philippines)

Tyler Whittingham, Salt Lake City, Utah (Brighton HS), Sr., DB (Brazil)

J.J. Williams, Aurora, Colo. (Layton HS), Sr., LB (West Indies)

UTAH STATE (12)

Jefferson Court, Alta, Utah (Alta HS), Fr., LB (California Anaheim)

Josh Johansen, Kaysville, Utah (Davis HS), Sr., WR (Mongolia)

B.J. Larsen, Logan, Utah (Logan HS), Fr., DE (Arkansas Little Rock)

Eric Moats, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Thunder Ridge), Sr., WR (Guatemala)

Nate Needham, St. George, Utah (Pine View), Fr., Deep snapper (Brazil Sao Paulo)

Eric Schultz, Connell, Wash. (Connell HS), Fr., OL (Alabama Birmingham)

Stetson Tenney, Show Low, Ariz. (Show Low HS), Jr., OL (Arkansas Little Rock)

Brad Theurer, Logan, Utah (Logan HS), So., TE (Indonesia Jakarta)

Josh Thompson, Logan, Utah (Logan HS), Fr., K

Cam Webb, Millville, Utah (Mtn. Crest HS), Jr., WR (Philippines Quezon City)

Kevin Whimpey, Highland, Utah (Lone Peak), So., DL (California Ventura)

Kyle Whimpey, Highland, Utah (Lone Peak HS), So., OL (California Riverside)

OTHER SCHOOLS

AIR FORCE (1)

Stephan Atrice, Fairburn, Ga. (Sandy Creek HS), Jr., LB (Puerto Rico/Caribbean)

BOISE STATE (1)

Michael Ames, Boise, Idaho (Centennial HS), Jr. OL

COLORADO STATE (2)

Paul Madsen, Provo, Utah (San Ramon Valley HS), Sr., OL (Texas Lubbock)

Drew Reilly, Valley Center, Calif. (Valley Center HS), Fr., DB (Texas McAllen)

NEW MEXICO STATE (3)

B.J. Adolpho, Kahuku, Hawaii (Kahuku HS), Jr., LB

Maveu Heimuli, Kahuku, Hawaii (Kahuku HS), Jr., OL (Brazil)

David Niumatalolo, Kahuku, Hawaii (Kahuku HS), Sr., DE (Ghana)

NORTH CAROLINA STATE (1)

McKay Frandsen, American Fork, Utah, (American Fork HS), Jr., DE (Alaska Anchorage)

OREGON (2)

Mark Asper, Idaho Falls, Idaho (Bonneville HS), Sr., OL (Spain Barcelona)

Hamani Stevens, Hemet, Calif. (Hemet HS), Oregon, Fr., OL (Philippines)

OREGON STATE (3)

Rudolf Fifita, Euless, Texas (Trinitiy HS), Jr., DE (American Samoa)

Geoff Garner, Mesa, Ariz. (Mesa HS), So., OL (Panama Panama City)

Kevin “Feti” Unga, Rochester, Calif. (Kahuku HS), Jr., LB (Chile)

SAN JOSE STATE (2)

Peter Tuitupou, Orem, Utah (Snow College), Jr., TE (Panama)

David Tuitupou, Orem, Utah (Snow College), Jr., DE (Canada Toronto)

UNLV (1)

William Vea, Alamo, Nev. (Pahranagat Valley HS), Fr., FB (Jamaica Kingston)

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