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Prayer Holds Significant Role In Kalani Sitake’s BYU Football Program

BYU Football team gathered with Boise State for a prayer at midfield on November 6th, 2020. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – In a world where everything feels divisive these days, rivals BYU and Boise State congregating at midfield for prayer was a refreshing moment of unity.

The moment made the rounds on social media, showing that the world does like positivity in their timelines. Both teams wanted to show appreciation for one another amidst the novel Coronavirus pandemic that has impacted all walks of life.

 

“I’ve been really pleased with the fact that we still get to play football and for the eight games we’ve had, and just still have that feeling of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities [we get],” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “Being able to be on that field with our opponents, I think it gives you a different perspective on it, and I think having that moment with Boise after the game, but also having moments with other teams and interactions with them. It just means a lot more than it did before. You don’t take it for granted anymore.”

It’s not often you see a public display of worship from a sporting event. When the opportunity posed itself, Sitake couldn’t turn that down. Especially when you consider BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prayer holds a large role in Sitake’s program that is currently 8-0 and No. 8 in the national rankings.

“Huge (part of our program),” said Kalani Sitake. “We can pray, so we do, and we promote prayer often. We pray as a team, and we pray as a program. It’s a big part of what we do. We’re allowed to do that, so we’re going to take advantage of that.

“The moment with Boise, they invited us to pray with them, and we’re not going to turn that down when a team invites our team to kneel and praise God for the opportunity that we had to play.”

BYU Football players on the role of prayer

An opportunity to play is a luxury these days in college football. COVID-19 cases around the country are spiking, and college football has been a microcosm of that. Now injured tight end Matt Bushman said it best before the season, “any football we get this season is a bonus.” The bonuses that BYU is getting, they make sure to thank God through prayer.

“Prayer is a huge aspect of my life,” BYU left tackle Brady Christensen said. “I always tend to set three or four goals a year that I’m trying to accomplish. One of my goals always involves football; let’s say. So I’m always praying to ask God to help me with that goal to continue to strive to reach it, and always keep it in my mind. So, yeah, it’s huge to keep a close relationship with our Heavenly Father. It’s big for me to try and keep a good perspective on everything because sometimes you get so caught up with, ‘Oh, I didn’t play good’ or ‘I played really good.’ Sometimes, football is important, but there are also bigger things in life than just football.”

More than half of the BYU football roster served two-year missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many talking heads in the football world view missions as a way for BYU to get an advantage at the collegiate level with older players. But what they don’t realize is that missionaries sacrifice everything from their lives for two years, including all athletic activities.

When missionaries get back, it isn’t easy to get back into peak shape and performance to compete at the D1 College Football level. Redshirt freshman Isaac Rex realized that last year after he returned home from his mission to Samoa. But his experiences as a missionary and being a student-athlete at BYU have allowed him to stay close to God through prayer.

During these trying times where nothing and no one feels close, prayer can be a source of comfort and it’s played a large role for athletes like Rex.

“Well, honestly, prayer is a very important aspect of my life,” said Rex. “I love being able to talk to my Heavenly Father and receive his guidance. When you pray, it’s kind of like, receiving coaching from coaches. When you receive that revelation from God, it’s like getting feedback from your coaches on what you can do better and how you’re improving, and how much he loves you.

“Every time a coach gives you feedback, it’s kind of like he’s showing his love for you because he wants you to be better and to grow as a person. I feel like that’s the same with prayer. When you receive revelation from our Heavenly Father from the Lord, you know that he wants you to be better, and he loves you. I love being able to talk to my Heavenly Father and receive guidance from him and the revelation that I could receive. Prayer is a lot like football in some ways, and it’s also a really cool experience for all of us to grow closer to our Heavenly Father.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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