Latter-day Saint Life

‘Honoring something higher than football’: 4 times BYU prayed with opponents

Last weekend, the BYU Cougars found common ground with their opponents, the Virginia Cavaliers, but the connection between the teams might not be as obvious as you might initially assume.

The obvious link would be Virginia football’s current head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, who coached the BYU Cougars from 2005–2015 and holds top spots for longest tenure as BYU head coach and most Cougar wins, second only to LaVell Edwards.

But it was what happened after the game that connected the teams even more—when Virginia and BYU players alike huddled up on the field, wrapped arms around shoulders, and bowed their heads in prayer.

Derwin Gray, cofounder and lead pastor of Transformation Church in South Carolina and former BYU and NFL football player, writes for the Deseret News, “Watching these young football players with heads bowed emphasizes honoring something higher than football. ... Embracing the power of prayer will bring victories that last well beyond football season.”

And this is not the first time the media has caught wind of the Cougars’ postgame custom. Here are three other examples of players and coaches from BYU joining in prayer with their opponents.

BYU vs. Baylor, October 16, 2021

Earlier this season, after Baylor defeated BYU 38–24 on October 16, players from the world’s largest Baptist university knelt in prayer with players from the world’s largest Latter-day Saint university.

BYU vs. Boise State, November 6, 2020

In November 2020, the Boise State Broncos and the BYU Cougars held hands and knelt together in prayer on the vibrant and colloquial “Smurf Turf” in Idaho after their matchup.

smurf turf.png
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

When Boise State’s team chaplain, Pastor Mark Thornton, told BYU head coach Kalani Sitake that he was getting ready to pray with the team, Coach Sitake asked if his players could join them.

Boise State cocaptain Avery Williams was shocked when virtually the entire BYU team joined the prayer on the field.

“I don’t know if an entire whole team has joined us before in the years that I’ve been here. That means a lot,” he told Deseret News.

► You may also like: ‘Faith is much bigger than football’: Why BYU and Boise State prayed together on the field after last week’s game

BYU vs. Liberty University, November 9, 2019

After their first on-field battle with Liberty University, BYU coaches and players shook hands with their opponents and knelt in prayer with them at midfield.

Coach Kalani Sitake told the Salt Lake Tribune, “It was nice to share the field and then have a word of prayer in the middle of the field with them. I thought that was really special, having two teams that are based on Christian values and everything—I thought it was really cool.”

► You may also like: BYU, Liberty Football Teams Play—and Pray—Together in First Game Between Christian Schools

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