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For Many Mormon Athletes, Sports Careers Give Way to Church Missions

The common practice by Mormon athletes to postpone their collegiate sports careers to serve missions is often covered in the news media. ESPN reporter Gare Joyce found it to be an extraordinary sacrifice and recently chose a BYU football player to tell that story in ESPN The Magazine.

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Romney Fuga was a star high school athlete in his hometown of Huntington Beach, California. At 6'1" and 295 lbs., the defensive tackle was recruited to play for BYU. After a promising first season he postponed his collegiate football career to join the ranks of more than 52,000 young Mormon men and women who serve as missionaries. In doing so, like tens of thousands of other missionaries, he put his social, educational and career plans on hold, leaving behind family and the comforts of home for two years.

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Romney received his mission call to the Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission. An ESPN photographer traveled to the island country off the southeast coast of Africa near the end of Elder Fuga's mission to capture a few days of missionary life on camera.

Shortly after Romney's return home, Joyce met up with the sophomore in Provo, Utah, to get his thoughts about his experience just a few days before he reported to football training camp.

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"At first I was a little nervous and humbled that ESPN would choose me, but I was excited as well to have the opportunity to represent BYU and the Church," said Romney. "I wanted to show people how important missions are to members of our faith. It was important to me to go on a mission. I knew it was what I needed to do."

The photo essay, along with a narrative by Romney about his mission experience and commentary on the photos taken, appears in the September 7 print issue of ESPN The Magazine.

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