1 of 17
Provided by Rice athletics
Rice linebacker Austin Williams served his LDS mission in Guatemala.

Rice University had everything Austin Williams was looking for.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker from Austin, Texas, essentially had three requirements: first, a high-quality education; second, the chance to play college football; and third, following a two-year Mormon mission to Guatemala, he wanted to attend a school where he would have ample missionary opportunities. He had several options, but Rice stood out, Williams said.

"I chose Rice because that's where I felt I needed to be," Williams said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. "I was wanted by the coaches and it was a great place for me to continue serving and helping others to find the gospel."

Williams is one of 162 returned Mormon missionaries in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season who have served full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in different cities and countries around the world.

Williams, a sophomore, isn't the only returned missionary playing at Rice.

James Sanft, who served in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, is also on the roster. He comes from an athletic family as his mother played basketball at Ricks College (now Brigham Young University-Idaho) and his father played football at Kansas State, he said.

Sanft, defensive back, played for the Owls as a true freshman but suffered a season-ending knee injury last spring and will redshirt this year while he goes undergoes rehab, he said.

Williams has also been recovering from a nagging ankle injury, but is able to play on special teams at home games, he said.

When possible, Williams and Sanft enjoy conversing in Spanish, the language each learned as a missionary.

When he's not playing football or school work, Williams, a missionary in his LDS ward, has shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with teammates and friends. Two teammates have met with the missionaries and one has a baptismal date. A third teammate, raised a Mormon but less active, has expressed interest in returning to activity, Williams said.

On another occasion, with the full-time missionaries over for a visit, Williams quickly assembled eight friends, including a member of the Rice track and field team and other "future scientists and doctors," to learn about the church, he said.

"Honestly, it's been one of the best experiences," Williams said of being a ward missionary at Rice. "Having that feeling of love for teammates, friends and missionaries, helping everybody find this truth and light in their lives, really makes a huge difference. It's one of the driving forces behind why I came to Rice, and why I enjoy it here."

Williams said his love of the gospel and missionary work can be traced back to stories his father would share from his own missionary experiences in Uruguay.

"Through my dad's storytelling of his mission, I figured out the truths of the gospel," Williams said. "Those stories led me to being converted and taught me what I needed to do to find my testimony."

When possible, Williams attends LDS institute classes and participates in the Latter-day Saint Student Association on campus.

Returned Mormon missionaries in 2016 FBS college football

In addition to Williams and Sanft at Rice, the 2016 list of returned Mormon missionaries in FBS college football includes 79 players at BYU, 26 at Utah State and 24 at the University of Utah. There are six playing for Hawaii, four on the rosters at Oregon State and Boise State, and three each at Stanford and Arizona State. Arizona and Wyoming each have two. Colorado, Memphis, Nevada, San Diego State, USC and Michigan State each have one.

If you know of a returned missionary college football player we have missed, please send an email to ttoone@deseretnews.com with the name of the player, his team and where he served his mission.

Ricky Ali'ifua: Utah State; San Leandro, California (San Leandro HS), Sr., DL; served in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Rhett Almond: BYU, Valencia, California (Hart HS), So., P.; served in Salta, Argentina.

Phillip Amone: BYU; Orlando, Florida (Dr. Phillips HS), So., LB.; served in Orsono, Chile.

Caden Anderson: Utah State; Logan (Logan HS), Fr., DL; served in Detroit.

Isaac Asiata: Utah; Spanish Fork (Spanish Fork HS), Sr., OL; served in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Chris Badger: BYU; Provo (Timpview HS/Notre Dame), Sr., DB; served in Ecuador.

James Baird: BYU; Fort Dix, New Jersey (Northridge HS), Fr., K; served in Honduras.

Dakota Baker: Utah; Idaho Falls (Idaho Falls HS), Fr., WR; served in Atlanta.

Tanner Balderree: BYU; Sherwood, Oregon (Sherwood HS), Jr., TE; served in Leeds, England.

Sam Baldwin: BYU; Rexburg, Idaho (Madison HS), Fr., DB; served in Kobe, Japan.

Sean Barton: Stanford; North Salt Lake (Woods Cross HS), Fr., LB; served in Benin, West Africa.

Logan Bateman: Utah; Simi Valley, California (Royal HS), Fr., QB; served in Cancun, Mexico.

Tyler Bell: Utah; Fountain Valley, California (Fountain Valley HS), Jr., TE; served in Lansing, Michigan.

Sam Bennion: Colorado; Logan (Logan HS), Fr., DL; served in Concepcion, Chile.

Francis Bernard: BYU; Herriman (Herriman HS), So., LB; served in Atlanta.

Garett Bolles: Utah; Lehi (Westlake HS), Jr., OL; served in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Noah Borden: Hawaii; Pearl City, Hawaii (Kamehameha Schools Kapalama), So., LB/LS; served in Las Vegas.

Jacom Brimhall: Arizona State; Mesa, Arizona (Mountain View HS), Jr., RB; served in Mexico City.

Preston Brooksby: Utah State; Peoria, Arizona (Sunrise Mountain HS/Glendale CC), Jr., OL; served in McAllen, Texas.

Algernon Brown: BYU; Magna (Skyline HS), Sr., RB; served in Sao Paulo.

Austin Chambers: BYU; Shawnee Mission, Kansas (Shawnee Mission West HS), Fr., OL; served in Las Vegas.

Austin Cheney: Utah State; Farmington (Viewmont HS/SVU), Sr., DB; served in Guatemala.

Hayden Clegg: Utah; Laguna Nigel, California (Vista Murrieta HS/Nebraska-Omaha), Sr., DL; served in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Dylan Collie: Hawaii; El Dorado Hills, California (BYU), So., WR; served in Richmond, Virginia.

Gage Cook: Utah; Kaysville (Davis HS), Fr., WR; served in Singapore.

Parker Dawe: BYU; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS), Sr., OL; served in Boston.

Zac Dawe: BYU; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS), Fr., OL; served in Houston.

CadenDortch: BYU; Saratoga Springs (Westlake HS), Fr., DB; served in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Mackay Dunn: Utah; Draper (Alta HS), So., DB; served in Argentina.

Corey Edwards: BYU; Hurricane (Hurricane HS), So., K; served in Taichung, Taiwan.

Andrew Eide: BYU; Orem (Southern Utah), graduate, OL; served in Brazil.

Brayden El-Bakri: BYU; Salt Lake City (Brighton HS), So., RB; served in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Bryan Engstrom: BYU; Sandy (Alta HS), So., RB; served in Calgary, Canada.

Brandon Fanaika: Stanford; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS), Jr., OL; served in Florida.

Aiulua Fanene: Arizona; Nu'uuli, American Samoa (Tafuna HS), Sr., DL; served in northern California.

Ritisoni Fata: Utah State; Redlands, California (East Valley HS), Fr., DL; served in Texas.

Quin Ficklin: BYU; Mesa, Arizona (Red Mountain HS), So., OL; served in New York.

Kavika Fonua: BYU; Syracuse (Syracuse HS), So., DB. Served in Vancouver, Canada.

Dalton Forsythe: Utah State; Grapevine, Texas (Grapevine HS/Southern Utah), Sr., OL; Served in Madrid.

Gavin Fowler: BYU; Kaysville (Davis HS), Jr., DB; served in Long Beach, California.

Teancum (Tico) Fuga: BYU; Huntington Beach, CA (Edison HS), Fr., DT; served in Salta, Argentina .

Sani Fuimaono: Arizona; Kaneohe, Hawaii (Punahou HS), Sr., DL; served in Chile.

Baron Gajkowski: Utah State; Alpine (Lone Peak HS), Fr., S; served in South Carolina.

Mason Gajkowski: Utah State; Sandy (Jordan HS), Fr., LB; served in Guatemala.

Rylee Gautavai: BYU; Bountiful (Bountiful HS), Fr., LB; served in Montreal, Canada.

Matt Hadley: BYU; Connell, Washington (Connell HS), Jr., DB; served in Salvador, Brazil.

KJ Hall: BYU; Spanish Fork (Maple Mountain HS), Fr. DB; served in Mexico City.

Connor Haller: Utah; Salt Lake City (Olympus HS), Fr., DB; served in Scotland and Ireland.

Micah Hannemann: BYU; Alpine (Lone Peak HS), Jr., DB; served in Carlsbad, California.

Chase Hansen: Utah, Highland (Lone Peak HS), So., DB/QB; served in Brisbane, Australia.

Colby Hansen: BYU; Clarkston, Washington (Clarktson HS), Jr., RB; served in Concepcion, Chile.

Porter Hansen: BYU; La Cresenta, California (Cresenta Valley HS), So. LB; served in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.

Braden Harris: Utah State; Gunnison (Gunnison Valley HS), Fr., LB; served in Tonga.

Mitch Harris: BYU; Gilbert, Arizona (Perry HS), Fr., Deep snapper; served in Guatemala City.

Derek Hastings: Utah State; Lehi (Lehi HS), Fr., TE; Served in Billings, Montana.

Austin Heder: BYU; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS), Sr., LB; served in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

ChandonHerring: BYU; Gilbert, Arizona (Perry HS), Fr., OL; served in Washington D.C.

Nick Heninger: Utah; South Jordan (Bingham HS), Fr., DL; served in Baguio, Philippines.

Hayes Hicken: Utah, Salt Lake City (Highland HS), Fr., K; served in Tampico, Mexico.

Taysom Hill: BYU; Pocatello, Idaho (Highland HS), Sr., QB; served in Sydney, Australia.

Mufi Hill-Hunt: Michigan State; Sandy (Alta HS), Fr., DL; served in Virginia.

Troy Hinds: BYU; Kaysville (Davis HS), So., LB; served in Jackson, Mississippi.

Trevor Horlacher: Utah; Ivins (Snow College), Fr., DL; served in Mexico.

Landon Horne: Utah State; Kaysville (Davis HS/Snow College), Sr., TE; served in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Austin Hoyt: BYU; Ione, California (Argonaut HS), So., OL; served in Denver.

Tauvaga Ho Ching II: Memphis; Upland, California (Upland HS/Mt. San Antonio JC), So., OL; served in Atlanta.

Jarom Ioane: Utah State; Bountiful (Bountiful HS), Jr., OL; Served in Veracruz, Mexico.

Jake Jackson: Utah; Encinitas, California (La Costa Canyon HS), Fr., LB; served in San Antonio.

Tanner Jacobsen: BYU; Southlake, Texas (Texas Tech), So., DB; served in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Kyle Johnson: BYU; Sandy (Jordan HS), Sr., OL; served in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Grant Jones: BYU; Concord, California (Ygnacio Valley HS), Jr., DB; served in Las Vegas.

Garrett Juergens: BYU; Houston (Langham Creek HS), Sr., WR; served in Peru.

Mitchell Juergens: BYU; Houston (Langham Creek HS), Sr., WR; served in Mexico City.

Tuni Kanuch: BYU; South Jordan (Bingham HS), Jr., OL; served in San Diego.

Corbin Kaufusi: BYU; Provo (Timpview HS), So., OL; served in South Korea.

Isaiah Kaufusi: BYU; Cottonwood Heights (Brighton HS), Fr., LB; served in Tonga.

Sione Kauhi: Hawaii; Wilsonville, Oregon (Wilsonville HS), Fr., TE; served in Phoenix.

Moses Kaumatule: BYU; South Jordan (Bingham HS), So., DL; served in Oakland, California.

Mark Kruger: Utah; Orem (Pleasant Grove HS), Fr., DL; served in Australia.

Harvey Langi: BYU; South Jordan (Bingham HS/University of Utah), Sr., LB; served in Tampa, Florida.

Ului Lapuaho: BYU; West Valley City (Hunter HS), Jr., OL; served in Sydney Australia.

Moroni Laulu-Pututau: BYU; Hyrum (Mountain Crest HS), So., WR; served in Antofagasta, Chile.

Derek Larsen: Utah State; Logan (Logan HS), So., LB; served in Orsorno, Chile.

Gus Lavaka: Oregon State; Kearns (Kearns HS), Fr., OL; served in Tonga.

Nakita Lealao: Nevada; Herriman (Laney College), Jr., DL; served in American Samoa.

Darren Lee: Boise State; Susanville, California, (Lassen HS, California), Sr., LB; served in Dallas (Spanish-speaking).

Logan Lee: Utah State; Rexburg, Idaho (Madison HS), Fr., LB; served in McAllen, Texas.

Hiva Lee: BYU; Ellensburg, Washington (Ellensburg HS), Fr., DB; served in Salt Lake City.

Uriah Leiataua: BYU; Compton, California (Dominguez HS), Fr., DL; served in Samoa.

Lene Lesatele: BYU; Artesia, California (Gahr HS), Jr., LB; served in the Philippines.

Jonny Linehan: BYU; Auckland, New Zealand (Takapuna Grammar), Sr., P; served in Adelaide, Australia.

Dallas Lloyd: Stanford; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS), Sr., DB; served in Chile.

Taniela Lolohea: Wyoming; Hawthorne, California (El Camino CC), Jr., DL; served in Nicaragua.

Inoke Lotulelei: BYU; Midvale (Cottonwood HS), Fr., WR; served in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Sonatane Lui: Boise State; Sandy (Alta HS), Fr., DL; served in Los Angeles.

Tanner Mangum: BYU; Eagle, Idaho (Eagle HS), So., QB; served in Antofagasta, Chile.

Hunter Marshall: BYU; Acworth, Georgia (Snow College), So., TE; served in Everett, Washington.

Brandon Mathews: Arizona State; Mesa, Arizona (Mountain View HS), Sr., LB. served in Oslo, Norway.

Austin McChesney: BYU; Highland (Lone Peak HS), Fr., DB; served in San Diego.

Durrant Miles: Boise State; South Jordan (Bingham HS), So., DL; served in Bolivia.

Sam Morell: BYU; Plano, Texas (Plano HS), Fr., LB; served in Arcadia, California.

Deano Motes: San Jose State; Chandler, Arizona (Perry HS), Fr., OL; served in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kekoa Nawahine: Boise State; Meridian, Idaho (Rocky Mountain HS), Fr., S; served in Calgary, Canada.

DJ Nelson: Utah State; Logan (Logan HS), So., QB. Served in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Va'a Niumatalolo: BYU; Annapolis, Maryland (Broadneck HS), Jr., LB; served in St. George, Utah.

Keyan Norman: BYU; Alpine (Southern Utah), Jr., OL; served in Orlando, Florida.

Jentz Painter: Utah State; Riverton (Riverton HS), Sr., DB; served in Russia.

Chance Parker: Utah State; Kaysville (Davis HS), Fr., S; served in Philadelphia.

Butch Pau’u: BYU; Anaheim, California (Servite HS), So., LB; served in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Conor Perkins: San Diego State; Henderson, Nevada (Green Valley HS), Fr., K; served in Scotland/Ireland.

Andy Phillips: Utah; Draper (Winter Sports School), Sr., K.; served in Oslo, Norway.

Trajan Pili: BYU; Las Vegas (Centennial HS), Fr. DL; served in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sawyer Powell: BYU; West Richland, Washington (Richland HS), Jr., DB; served in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Baker Pritchard: Oregon State; South Jordan (Bingham HS/BYU), Jr., DL. Served in Honolulu.

Adam Pulsipher: BYU; Temecula, California (Temecula Valley HS), So., LB; served in Rancagua, Chile.

Addison Pulsipher: BYU; Temecula, California (Temecula Valley HS), Fr., OL; served in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Hauati Pututau: Utah; Salt Lake City (Cottonwood HS), Fr., DT; served in Orlando, Florida.

Dax Raymond: Utah State; Provo (Timpview HS), So., TE; served in Russia.

Beau Reilly: Hawaii; Valley Center, California (Valley Center HS), So., QB; served in Sao Paulo.

Mack Richards: BYU; Sandy (Alta HS), Fr., WR; served in Pueblo, Mexico.

Creed Richardson: BYU; Provo (Timpview HS), So., RB; served in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Nate Sampson: BYU; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS), So., TE; served in Roseville, California.

Rhett Sandlin: BYU; Draper (Alta HS), So., LB; served in Nashville, Tennessee.

James Sanft: Rice; Laie, Hawaii (Punahou HS), So., DB; served in Reno, Nevada.

Andrew Santiago: Utah; Provo (Plano West HS, Texas), Sr., WR; served in Ogden.

Cody Savage: BYU; Lovell, Wyoming (Lovell HS), Fr., TE; served in Atlanta.

Paisa Savea: Oregon State; Fagaima, American Samoa (Northridge HS/Snow College), Jr., DL; served in central and southern California.

Pahl Schwab: Wyoming; Afton, Wyoming (Star Valley HS), Fr., OL; served in Tempe and Gilbert, Arizona.

Thomas Shoaf: BYU; Columbus, Indiana (Columbus North HS), Fr., OL; served in Honolulu.

Rickey Shumway: BYU; Provo (Timpview HS), Fr., WR; served in Concepcion, Chile.

Talon Shumway: BYU; South Jordan (Lone Peak HS), Fr., WR; served in McAllen, Texas.

Colbe Smelser: Arizona State; Gilbert, Arizona (Williams Field HS), Jr., LB; served in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Cody Stewart: BYU; Mesa, Arizona (Mountain View HS), Jr., DB; served in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Zach Swenson: Utah State; Salt Lake City (East HS), Fr., S; served in San Diego.

Logan Taele: BYU; Columbus, Ohio (Dixie HS), Sr., DL; served in Tucson, Arizona.

Merrill Taliauli: BYU; Salt Lake City (East HS), So., DL; served in Federal Way, Washington.

Handsome Tanielu: BYU; Waianae, Hawaii (Snow College), Jr., DL; served in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Leroy Tanoai: BYU; Sherman Oaks, California (Notre Dame HS), Fr., OL; served in Suva, Fiji.

Johnny Tapusoa: BYU; Laie, Hawaii (Kahuku HS), Fr., LB; served in Apia, Samoa.

Sosaia Tauaho: Oregon State; Oakland, California (Fremont HS/Laney College), Sr., OL; served in Tonga.

Siua Taufa: Utah State; Concord, California (Ygnacio Valley HS/Diablo Valley CC), Sr., DL; served in Nicaragua.

Brandon Taukeiaho: Utah State; South Jordan (Bingham HS), Jr., OL; served in Houston.

Kesni Tausinga: BYU; South Jordan (Bingham HS), Jr., DL; served in Suva, Fiji.

Sunia Tauteoli: Utah; Salt Lake City (East HS/Snow College), Jr., LB; served in Houston.

Sae Tautu: BYU; Alpine (Lone Peak HS), Sr., LB; served in Tacoma, Washington.

Paul Toala: Utah; Burien, Washington (Dixie State College), So., OL; served in Mexico.

Pita Tonga: Utah; Taylorsville (Highland HS), Fr., DL; served in Lima, Peru.

Stevie Tu'ikolovatu: USC; Salt Lake City (East HS/Utah), Sr., DL; served in the Philippines.

Travis Tuiloma: BYU; Topeka, Kansas (Washburn Rural HS), Sr., DL; served in Apia, Samoa.

Leki Uasike: Utah State; Hurst, Texas (LD Bell HS/Cisco JC), Sr., LB; served in Guatemala.

Mohelika Uasike: Utah State; North Richland Hills, Texas (LD Bell HS), Fr., DL; served in Riverside, California.

KJ Uluave: Utah State; Laie, Hawaii (Kahuku HS), So., OL; served in Salt Lake City.

Morgan Unga: BYU; Ogden (Bonneville HS), So., LB; served in Richmond, Virginia.

John Ursua: Hawaii; Laie, Hawaii (Cedar City HS), Fr., WR; served in Paris.

Vaha Vainuku: Utah; Salt Lake City (East HS), Fr., DL; served in Oakland, California.

Zach VanLeeuwen: Utah State; Provo (Timpview HS), So., WR; served in Paraguay.

Alex Whittingham: Utah; Salt Lake City (Brighton HS), Jr., LB; served in New Zealand.

Jacoby Wildman: Utah State; Logan (Logan HS), Fr., DL; served in Houston.

Austin Williams: Rice; Austin, Texas (Lake Travis HS), So., LB; served in Guatemala City.

Solomone Wolfgramm: BYU; Menlo Park, California (BYU-Hawaii), So., TE; served in Phoenix.

Mason Woodward: Utah; West Point (Syracuse HS), So., RB; served in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Aaron Zwahlen: Hawaii; Modesto, California (Thomas Downey HS), Fr., QB; served in Baltimore.

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone