Monday, January 28, 2013


Those who know me know that I'm a sportswriter. I love sports; the thrill of the crowd, the passion of the fans, the gall produced by every player on the field for his time. It's where heroes are born, legends are made, and real men (and women) step up.

Sport is more than a game. It is a passage to another life. Much like movies, sports can take us away from our troubles and worries for a brief respite, allowing us to feel the collective energy of a team or fanbase linked for one common good. Plain and simple, sports are the epitome of unity in this world.

And even Mormons play them — beyond the recreational church-basketball leagues.

Will Hopoate is an accomplished rugby player, turning pro with Manly in New Zealand's top-flight professional rugby league when he was 18. But as his 19th birthday neared, he faced a decision. Hopoate, after all, is a Mormon. And like most Mormon men at 19, Hopoate wanted to served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The ramifications could be brutal. He would leave his home for two years, not being allowed to play rugby the whole time, ending his contract with his team and the financial security (rumored to be around $1.5 million a year) that came with it.

But Hopoate also knew what he knew. He wanted to preach the gospel and share the message of Jesus Christ's love with the world. So he took the plunge — and is now serving as Elder Hopoate in Australia.

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