LOGAN Most people do not connect spirituality with football.
Brigham Young University head football coach Bronco Mendenhall, however, told Utah State University students that spirituality, obedience to church principles and humility are keys to success not only in football but also in life.
President Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who interviewed Mendenhall when he was a candidate for the head coaching position, told him to "lead the (football) program as the Savior would." Mendenhall recounted the story when he spoke to hundreds during the "Religion in Life" devotional series at the Logan LDS Institute of Religion.
Quoting Mosiah, Chapter 18, from the Book of Mormon, Mendenhall said he tries to follow that council "by being willing to bear one another's burdens that they may be light, yea, and willing to mourn with those that mourn, yea, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and by standing as a witness of God in all times, and in all things and in all places ye may be in until death."
Mendenhall, looking at the footnotes down toward the bottom of the page, said that he did not see the words, "except if you're a football coach."
It isn't easy, though, Mendenhall said. The fiercest criticism he receives as a coach comes from his "integrating the Spirit in a visible and daily manner into (the) program."
His critics, he said, blamed this focus, along with not practicing on Sundays and ending practices on time, for why the team was not doing well during his first season as head coach, when the team began the year with just one win in four games.
Prior to the Cougars' third loss in 2005, Mendenhall said he learned a valuable lesson about obedience that turned the team around.
"I had received subtle promptings and from what I understand, that's how promptings come, from a still, small voice that we were not doing enough as a program in terms of representation and standing as a witness," he said.
The promptings were that the team should be holding firesides the night before every game. Mendenhall did not think that would work, so he said he did not listen.
"That has a lot to do with being 1-3, by the way, whether you'd like to believe it or not," he said. "That's the way it happens."
After coming to that understanding, Mendenhall said he arranged a fireside prior to playing the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. At the game following the fireside, BYU trailed until the fourth quarter, when the Cougars rallied for a victory. Since the fireside decision, the team's record is 27-7.
"You can draw whatever conclusions you'd like," he said. "Being obedient is where true peace comes from. By attempting to follow this path has come the most fulfilling experiences of personal growth that I could ever witness."