The Miracles That Led a Homeless Delinquent to Become a Latter-day Saint NFL Player

Finding the Lord

About a month later, Emily Freeman was lying in bed when she heard voices upstairs. She recognized Garett’s voice, but she was terrified to learn who the other person might be. “I didn’t dare go up there because his friends were really scary,” Emily says. Instead, she woke up Greg. “So Greg crept up the stairs all quietly, and he didn’t come back for this long time,” Emily says. Ten minutes later, Greg returned, saying he listened to Garett read an entire chapter of the Book of Mormon and say his prayers out loud.

“Here’s this kid just up there, in his room, and he has a hard time understanding the Book of Mormon when he reads, and so his bishop told him to read it out loud,” Emily says. “He just was so genuine in whatever his bishop said, that’s what he was going to do. And so he did. Read it out loud, every night, until he finished it.” The day Garett finished the Book of Mormon, he rushed downstairs, ecstatic. Then Emily asked if he had tried Moroni’s promise. The thought hadn’t even occurred to him.

Have we talked about the cleats? Because it is one of my favorite parts of his football life. It all started during his first few weeks at Snow College. He was having a hard time remembering the plays. We talked about the power of the Spirit. How it can help you remember. "Find a way to keep the Spirit with you on the field" I encouraged. This was his solution. He writes inspirational quotes and scriptures on his game day cleats. Black sharpie on soft leather. Then every time he looks down he remembers who he is, where he came from, and where he is trying to go. I get a little giggle every time I think of the guy who lines up across from him. If that guy takes a second to read the words written on the cleats...faith, hope, charity, Son of God... I wonder if for a second he thinks Garett will play soft. For just a split second, until he gets pancaked right after the whistle. Love this kid. Love those cleats. #garettsstory #everypair #everygame

A post shared by Emily Belle Freeman (@emilybellefreeman) on

“I went to church growing up, but I never truly believed it. And so the next night, I read and I prayed, and it was so surreal to me that this lightning bolt, that’s how it felt, just hit me. The minute I said ‘amen,’ my knees just sunk to the ground and I knew the Book of Mormon was true, that I was going to serve a mission,” Garett says. “[I knew] everything that I was doing was right, and I was in the right place, and it was the most amazing feeling.”

Though Garett struggled to understand the scriptures and the intricacies of the gospel, he worked tirelessly to learn the heart and core of the gospel. “If you just truly believe God, that He is there and that He loves you and that He blesses you with a testimony of this Church, and know that He is real, and that the Atonement is true, then that’s all you need to know. And that’s how I live my life,” Garett says. “My brain thinks so simply, and so if I just make the gospel so simple, as all of our prophets and revelators do, you know, pray, read, go to church, pay your tithing, some of those things are so hard for a lot of people, but I cherish those things because it’s how my brain works.”

While serving a mission in Colorado Springs, Garett continued to work hard and stick to what he knew was true as he shared his newfound testimony with others. “There was a kid named John. He was a 14-year-old kid and his mom was in prison and his dad was in prison. He had nobody,” Garett says. “The minute I saw him, I was like, ‘That is the man I need to speak to.’ And when I spoke to him, it was so crazy. He was just like me. He was just the kid that was lost.” Within months, Garett baptized John and then watched him grow. “I got to give him the priesthood. I got to give him everything that I can. And it’s just so amazing to me that the Lord calls you to an area where you can bless people.”

Ten months into his mission, Garett began struggling. After meeting with his mission president, the two decided it would be best for Garett to return home to work through some things. The adjustment was rough, but Garett did what he had learned to do best—turn to the Lord. “When I first got home, I struggled, and it’s funny because I did not want to get out of my missionary clothes at all,” he remembers. “I woke up every day and put on everything.” Garett was intent on moving forward and preparing to serve the Lord in whatever place Heavenly Father wanted him to be—whether that was returning to Colorado, completing a service mission, or finding a new direction in life.

Finding Football

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One day after Garett returned home from his mission, someone offhandedly told the 6' 5" nearly 300-pound returned missionary he should play football. Graduating with only a 2.2 GPA in high school, Garett was not NCAA-eligible. Division I football was out of the question. Despite the Freemans, coaches, and so many others telling him it was impossible, Garett decided to drive down to BYU and talk with Coach Steve Kaufusi.

“Coach Kaufusi was a friend of mine,” Garett says. “He saw a light in my eyes, and he told me, ‘We’re going to find a place for you.’” Kaufusi called the coach from Snow College, and soon Garett was headed down for a two-week trial with the team. Snow College only had one football scholarship left, and Garett had to earn it. And that’s exactly what he did.

Making Snow’s football team was just the beginning, however. In order to become eligible for Division I football, Garett needed to get his grades up. He spent every night from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the library after football practice, working with tutors and studying. By the end of the year, Garett had earned a 3.5 GPA and became the most highly recruited junior college player in the United States.

Finding Love

But school and football weren’t the only things on Garett’s mind at Snow College. One night at a college dance, Garett had a feeling to walk left.

“The first thing I saw was her and another guy was going towards her,” Garett says of a beautiful cheerleader named Natalie. So Garett swooped in with his best pickup line, thinking he was pretty smooth.

Natalie remembers it differently. “I was like, ‘oh my goodness, is he for real?’” she says. That night, Garett asked for Natalie’s phone number, but she didn’t know what to think of this imposing stranger with a voice so low “he scared me.” The two texted over the weekend, and Garett kept trying to see Natalie again, but she kept putting him off, until one night she agreed to meet him at her apartment.

Natalie still wanted to know more about Garett, so she googled him. “The first thing that I saw was a mugshot of him, and I was like, uh oh. Should I just not let him in?” she recalls. With her roommates at home, Natalie felt that she should at least let Garett inside.

And the first thing she asked was for Garett to tell her about his life, hoping he’d explain the mugshot. “Do you want the whole story?” he asked. She said yes. “So he spent about two hours telling me his life story,” Natalie says. “I cried.” Natalie got to know Garett better over the next few months, and the two were engaged shortly after. At the time, Natalie says, “I personally wasn’t quite ready to go through the temple.” But the couple kept the temple as their goal as they celebrated their wedding day.

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