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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Weber State's Tim Toone plays against Sacramento State on Oct. 17, 2009.

Before the NFL Draft, the only Tim getting any attention was named Tebow.

Now a week later, another Tim, last name Toone, is just as popular on Google.com.

Since being selected dead last — No. 255 — in last week's NFL Draft, Tim Toone has become something of a rock star. The former Weber State receiver with long, flowing, rust-color dreadlocks has responded to numerous radio, newspaper and television interview requests, including from ESPN.

Aside from the typical questions about being named "Mr. Irrelevant" — the designation for the final pick of the draft — and his chances of making the Detroit Lions' roster, the most commonly asked questions are about his service as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in West Africa.

"What is the most memorable thing about that experience?" the reporters ask. "What do you take from that experience that will help you in the NFL?"

As if catching a routine pass from the quarterback, Toone fields the questions and isn't afraid to share his true feelings about the people he grew to love in the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

"It made a big impression on me. It helped me realize my real goals in life and what I am really here to do," Toone said of his mission. "They (the African people) didn't have a lot of things in their life, but seeing their willingness to share with others who were less fortunate, it was pure love."

Toone also gained a unique toughness while serving in the Ivory Coast during a civil war, where it wasn't uncommon to hear machine-gun fire. For the most part, missionaries were left alone, Toone said.

While in Sierra Leone, Toone was taken hostage during a 3 a.m. robbery at his apartment. With a blanket around his head and a knife at his throat, Elder Toone was used as a bargaining chip to get into other apartments.

"I was scared during that time, but I never had a feeling I was going to die. We let them have everything and they left," Toone said. "It took a little bit to get over it, but once I got lost in the work and learned to depend on the Lord, he was able to comfort and help me continue."

Toone's mission experience obviously had an impact on Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The coach referenced the story when talking about the "little white guy with dreadlocks" on the Jim Rome show, a popular national radio program.

"After going through something like that, going over the middle is of no concern," Schwartz said.

Toone's new NFL coach thinks the rookie is an exciting runner who could develop a cult following in Detroit. The 25-year-old speedster is excited to make his mark.

"I love the game of football and I am going to do whatever I can to help my team be successful," Toone said. "If I have to go over the middle to catch a ball for a first down and get knocked out, that is what I will do. That is what they expect me to do."

The Peoria, Ariz., native earned his ticket to the NFL by having a stellar career at Weber State. The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder is the Wildcats' all-time leader in receptions (206), receiving yards (3,607) and touchdown catches (29). Toone also holds the Big Sky Conference record with a 95-yard punt return.

The story behind those dangling dreads, which earned Toone the nickname of "Tarzan," is one he tells often. It involves the 2006 Hawaii football team and superstition.

Inspired by the athletic receivers on Hawaii's Sugar Bowl team, Toone and other WSU receivers made a pact to do dreadlocks. But only Toone actually did it. The others shaved their heads.

At first it was something of a joke, something different, he said. But then No. 81 had a big season and superstition demanded the floppy dreads remain. That was three years ago.

His mother wasn't crazy about the new hairstyle at first, but warmed up eventually. He has no timetable for a change.

"She has had dreams where I shaved my head and she got super mad, so she has called me and said not to cut my hair," Toone said. "People give me a hard time about the hair. I get a lot of looks from members and nonmembers. But they are part of me now."

Thanks to his unwashed, coiled locks, Toone is often mistaken for RSL soccer star Kyle Beckerman. "Maybe now he will be mistaken for me," Toone said, laughing.

Toone recently graduated from Weber State with a degree in physical therapy. While attending WSU he was active in his student singles ward. His most recent church calling was activities committee co-chairman.

As an NFL player, he will rely on the lessons he has been taught and hopes to be a good example of LDS values. Toone credits his family and membership in the church for making him the person he is today.

"It (the gospel) has helped me avoid a lot of mistakes, to be more down to earth; it has helped me deal with stress; it has made me a better person," Toone said. "I depend on the Lord in everything I do. I know he has blessed me and is using me now to be able to do more things."

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As near as they can tell from a family tree diagram, staff writer Trent Toone and football player Tim Toone are fourth cousins.