QB Max Hall of Arizona Cardinals and Eleven Other Mormons Making Impact in NFL
Everyone has heard a bunch of different stuff about Mormons. Some of it's true, but a lot of it is false. What a lot of people may not know about them is that they love 'em some football.
You'd be hard pressed to find many college football fanbases that are more passionate about their school and team than those attached to Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.
A lot of young Mormons dream of playing football in college. Their abstinence from drinking alcohol and doing drugs is something prescribed by the religion, but it helps their athletic development as well.
The two-year missions that many young Mormons serve take them out of college for a couple years. They may be off the field for two seasons, but they gain an invaluable amount of real world experience while serving in obscure corners of the world. The maturity these players gain while on their missions cannot be measured, but it's a great asset for any athlete.
Maturity is especially important for a quarterback, and Arizona's Max Hall will display that, as well as his abilities as a passer, for the remainder of this season.
There are a lot of Mormons in the NFL, and here are some the ones making a splash this year.
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Even after losing to the Colts this past Sunday, the Chiefs have got to be considered one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season. They've done most of their damage on the ground with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. The biggest contributor in the receiving game is rookie tight end Tony Moeaki.
He leads the team in receptions with 16, receiving yards with 173 and receiving touchdowns with two. He is on pace to have a much more productive season in the NFL than he ever did in college when he played for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
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Stewart Bradley is currently starting at middle linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's had to deal with a lot of injuries during his football career, but when he's healthy, he's very effective.
In January of 2009, Bradley was named to the 2008 Sports Illustrated All-Pro team.
In high school, Bradley played just one season of football, but won three national championships in Rugby.
He played his college football for Nebraska, where he was an Academic All-Big 12 player in 2003. He led the Cornhuskers in tackles in 2006.
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Todd Heap was one of the best tight ends in the NFL for a few seasons. He's a two-time pro-bowler who has collected 444 receptions for 5081 yards and 36 touchdowns in 124 games for the Baltimore Ravens.
He is not targeted as much as he was in the past because of the recent upgrades to Baltimore's receiving corp. However, he's still a threat, even at 30 years old.
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Tahi may not have big time numbers in the NFL, but he is very important for the Minnesota Vikings as the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson. He'll make a catch every now and then, but his main function is to lead Peterson through holes on inside running plays.
In three seasons at Brigham Young University, Tahi went for 913 yards and 12 touchdowns on 224 carries. Over the same stretch, he made 71 receptions for 658 yards and five touchdowns.
In high school, he was named the state player of the year for Utah by USA Today.
Tahi also served a mission for the church in Jacksonville, Florida.
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Ngata is a 6'4", 335 pound fixture on the Baltimore Ravens defensive line. He's started 61 games in the last four-plus seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009. He has 8.5 sacks and three interceptions in his NFL career.
Ngata was an All-American in high school and college.
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Eric Weddle has made 224 tackles and four interceptions in just over three seasons for the San Diego Chargers. He put up the majority of those numbers during the 2008 and 2009 campaigns.
At the University of Utah, Weddle made 18 interceptions, recovered two fumbles, and scored four defensive touchdowns. He also ran the ball 44 times for 203 yards and five touchdowns during his senior season. He was a consensus All-American in 2006.
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Another returned missionary, Pouha served in Pittsburgh from 1998 to 2000. He was an All-American honorable mention in high school and played his college football at the University of Utah.
Since joining the Jets in the 2005 NFL Draft, he hasn't started many games. However, due to injuries suffered by Kris Jenkins in the last couple seasons, Pouha has played much more and he's played well.
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Deuce Lutui has started 56 games on the offensive line since 2006 for the Arizona Cardinals. He was a big part of the offensive line that helped the Cardinals get to the Super Bowl in 2008.
He was a standout at college football powerhouse USC and played well enough to be drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
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Once upon a time, Keisel dominated Wyoming high school football. I know, not exactly Texas football, but it got him to Brigham Young University where he played well enough to warrant being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002.
He's been a fixture for the Steelers defensive line since 2006. He's made 15.5 sacks and returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown earlier this season.
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In 91 games, Cooley has made 359 receptions for 4,023 yards and 32 touchdowns for the Washington Redskins. He is a two-time Pro Bowler, and for the first time in his career he has a really good quarterback to throw him the ball.
Cooley is another Wyomingite, but he played his high school and college football in Logan, Utah. During his senior year at Utah State, Cooley caught 62 passes for 732 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown that year.
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Austin Collie had a very solid rookie campaign last year, but was unfairly overshadowed by the speedy Pierre Garcon. Last year, he made 60 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. Compare that to Garcon's 47 catches for 765 yards and four touchdowns.
This year, Collie has fully supplanted Garcon as Manning's No. 2 target at receiver. Through five games, he has 37 catches for 446 yards and five touchdowns. He is on pace to put up 118 receptions, 1,427 receiving yards, and 16 receiving touchdowns this year.
I fully expect Collie to slowly phase out Reggie Wayne in the same way that Wayne slowly replaced Marvin Harrison. Don't be surprised if Collie is the Colts' No. 1 receiver in three or four years.
In three seasons at Brigham Young University, Collie caught 215 passes for 3,255 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Collie also served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Argentina.
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This undrafted rookie quarterback just beat the defending Super Bowl champions in his first career start. His numbers weren't fantastic, but for a rookie in his first start, they weren't bad either. He went 17 for 27 for 168 yards and one interception.
The Cardinals beat the Saints with huge defensive plays yesterday, but Hall's solid play was a factor. As he becomes more comfortable in the NFL, his numbers will improve. I never felt Derek Anderson should have been starting for this team, and I don't expect him to return to that role.
Barring injury, Hall should start for the remainder of this season as the Cardinals go for their third straight division title.
We'll learn a lot more about Hall when he plays divisional foe Seattle next week.
In three seasons at BYU, Hall completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 94 touchdowns. He led the Cougars to a record of 32-7 during his time there.
Max Hall surprised a lot of people this past Sunday, just not me. I expect him to become Kurt Warner's permanent replacement and get better throughout the course of his rookie year in Arizona.
Other Mormons in the NFL (Past and Present)
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John Beck - Washington Redskins
Ryon Bingham - San Diego Chargers
Dave Campo - Coach
Kevin Curtis - St. Louis Rams
Ty Detmer - Philadelphia Eagles
Jonathan Fanene - Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Francisco - Arizona Cardinals
Eric Heitmann - San Fransisco 49ers
Merril Hoge - Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris Hoke - Pittsburgh Steelers
Maake Kemoeatu - Washington Redskins
Spencer Larsen - Denver Broncos
Brandon Manumaleuna - St. Louis Rams
Brady Poppinga - Green Bay Packers
Andy Reid - Coach
Samson Satele - Oakland Raiders
...and many, many more...