One of the few bright spots in the Oakland Raiders' loss to the Washington Redskins Sunday was the performance of a returned Mormon missionary.
James Cowser, an undrafted 26-year-old linebacker/defensive end who served in Hong Kong, recovered a career-high two fumbles in the Raiders' 27-10 loss.
Cowser is one of at least 11 returned Mormon missionaries on NFL rosters this season.
This list is not all-inclusive. If you know of a returned missionary playing in the NFL that we have missed, please send an email to [email protected] with the name of the player and his team.
Isaac Asiata, Miami Dolphins
Isaac Asiata was drafted by Miami last spring and is entering his rookie season.
The former University of Utah offensive lineman served his mission in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and parts of Missouri and Arkansas.
"That was probably one of the greatest times of my life," Asiata told MiamiDolphins.com. "I'm a real spiritual guy. I love the LDS Church and my faith. To be able to go somewhere and do something not for yourself — that's what the mission was, to forget about myself, serve others and serve the Lord. That was huge for me to grow up, mature and become a better human being overall."
Tony Bergstrom, Baltimore Ravens
Another former Utah offensive lineman, Tony Bergstrom was recently traded from Arizona to Baltimore.
Bergstrom served his mission in Sacramento, California.
"It's something I will never forget," Bergstrom told foxsports.com in 2011.
After he was drafted by the Raiders in 2012, Bergstrom told silverandblackpride.com that his mission experience gave him maturity.
Garrett Bolles, Denver Broncos
A third Utah lineman in the NFL is Garrett Bolles, who came from a troubled home with a drug-addicted mother. Similar to Michael Oher's story in "The Blind Side," Bolles was taken in by a family that helped him straighten out his life, he told the Deseret News.
He served a mission in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before returning to play at Snow College and become a star with the Utes. He was taken in the first round by the Broncos.
"I grew a lot on my mission, but maturing over time and putting the Lord first has blessed me dramatically," Bolles told the Deseret News. "Absolutely my mission was the best thing for me. It really set the foundation to make me the man I am today and really helped me with my family and my wife and my kid on the way. I’m really grateful for all the love and support that I have."
Bolles injured his foot in a game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 17, Sports Illustrated reported.
James Cowser, Oakland Raiders
This past offseason, Cowser accepted an internship with NFL China and traveled to Asia.
It wasn't Cowser's first trip overseas, and it helped that the former Southern Utah Thunderbird spoke the language.
"Back in 2009, I redshirted in college, and then I took two years off, and I did a mission for my church, where I went out and I actually had the opportunity to live in Hong Kong for two years and work with the people out there, so that’s kind of why I know the language," Cowser said in a blog for Raiders.com. "I’m pretty decent at Cantonese, but I’m way better in Mandarin, so through my experiences out there, the people at NFL China thought it would be an awesome opportunity to have a big goofy American kid come out and speak to them in their own language, and try to do some good stuff."
John Denney, Miami Dolphins
The undrafted BYU alum has carved out a career in the NFL as a long snapper with the Dolphins since 2005. He is the longest tenured player on the team, according to thephininsider.com.
Denney, who also played at Ricks College, served his mission in Morristown, New Jersey.
Jordan Devey, Kansas City Chiefs
Devey didn't play high school football. In fact, he played the tuba, the violin and the trombone in the band, the Deseret News reported.
After serving a mission to San Jose, Costa Rica, he walked on at Snow College and later played at the University of Memphis.
In the NFL, Devey has played on the offensive line for New England, San Francisco and is now in his second year with Kansas City.
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
The former BYU quarterback who suffered four season-ending injuries found a home in New Orleans after an impressive preseason with the Green Bay Packers.
Hill served his mission in Sydney, Australia.
"I still feel the influence of my mission every day," Hill told the Deseret News in 2015. "I learned about the good times, the hard times and all the decisions a missionary makes. Missionaries learn to manage situations and to rely on the Lord. ... If I could do it in the mission field, I can do it at home, on and off the football field."
Bronson Kaufusi, Baltimore Ravens
Former BYU defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi is hoping to make his mark this year after missing his entire rookie season with an injured ankle.
The third-round pick by the Ravens served his mission in New Zealand. In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, Kaufusi said his mission was challenging and rewarding.
"It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the things that changed my life forever and helped me become who I am today, because you really grow a lot in those two years," Kaufusi said in the article.
Harvey Langi, New England Patriots
After finishing his career at BYU, the undrafted linebacker got his chance with the Patriots and overcame the odds to make the New England roster.
During hard times, Langi has relied on his LDS faith and lessons learned from his mission in Tampa, Florida. His mission changed him, Langi told the Boston Globe.
"Every single day, out serving others and preaching the gospel, it put a lot of things in perspective for me, and opened my eyes to see the bigger picture of what I wanted in the future," Langi said in the article.
Daniel Sorensen, Kansas City Chiefs
Former BYU safety Daniel Sorensen, who also went undrafted, has found a home in the secondary in Kansas City. He is in his fourth year with the Chiefs and will likely fill in for safety Eric Berry following his season-ending injury last week, the Kansas City Star reported.
Sorensen served his LDS mission in San Jose, Costa Rica. He described his mission to the Deseret News in 2015 as a "growing experience."
"You have to grow up real quick," Sorensen said in the article. "You learn how to work hard and you learn self-mastery. You learn how to wake up early and go to bed tired. You are more mature and have a better perspective on life. You also learn there is more to life than football."
Xavier Su'a-Filo, Houston Texans
Going into his fourth year with the Texans, the former UCLA offensive lineman is hoping for his best season so far, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Su'a-Filo served a Spanish-speaking mission in Alabama and Florida. In a 2014 interview, he told The New York Times that even star athletes should serve missions.
"If someone’s worried about going on a mission only because they can’t play or they’re not going to love the sport when they get back, I don’t think that’s a good reason,” Su’a-Filo said in the article.
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