Latter-day Saint Life

Latter-day Saint football players share how time off the field has brought them closer to Christ

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Matt Bushman on the field for the Las Vegas Raiders (left) and Ethan Erickson playing for the Air Force Academy (right)

This week two Latter-day Saints shared how faith was an important part of their journey as they both stepped away from and came back to the gridiron.

The week before BYU‘s 2020 season opener, tight end Matt Bushman ruptured his Achilles tendon. He has spent the last year recovering from surgery, working through physical therapy, and training with coaches. But now Bushman is back on the field playing for the Las Vegas Raiders and feeling more grateful and excited than ever.

During his recovery and his preparation for playing in the NFL, Bushman has had an opportunity to look back and reflect on his career and look forward to his future.

As reported by the Deseret News, Bushman said, “You just focus on the present, control what I can control. I was motivated to get back and be healthy, show that I can play football again. There’s still a lot of room for improvement in my game, but I don’t worry about my Achilles at all. I’m grateful for that and the work I put in to get back. I haven’t missed a practice because of it with the Raiders, I hope not to, and that’s been a big blessing.”

Bushman also has a newfound appreciation for trials and for Christ's role in his life.

“This life is a time of trial and you can’t expect all good things to happen. You can’t be down in the dumps all the time. You’ve got to have faith,” he told Deseret News. “Learning about Christ, his example and what he went through for all of us, I was able to gain strength through that and rely on him when I was having tough days where I didn’t know if I could see myself playing in the near future. With faith, those days would turn around and positive things would happen. Here I am. My faith carried me during the tough times.”

For Air Force Academy’s defensive back Ethan Erickson, his time off from football was very much expected. Right after high school, he chose to serve a full-time mission rather than spend a year or two playing at the Air Force Academy. He served in the Japan Kobe Mission.

“Serving a mission was something I really wanted to do, and I didn’t want anything to come up that would change my mind,” Erickson told Church News. “I also wanted to have four consecutive years at the academy without any distractions.”

Returning home from his mission and jumping right back into playing football was a huge adjustment for Erickson. He told Church News that it took him over a year to return to his pre-mission form and abilities.

“To go from a completely spiritual environment to basic training seemed like going to opposite ends of the spectrum. It wasn’t easy, but it helped me grow. The lessons I learned on my mission helped me overcome those obstacles and to have the fortitude to make it through,” he says.

Erickson also compared his time serving in Japan to his experiences on the football field: “Results may not come as fast as you may want . . . But later on, you can look back and see the true impact and magnitude of the things that you have done.”

Read more about Bushman’s story of recovery and faith at Deseret News. Learn about Erickson’s experience of deciding to serve a mission at Church News.

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