Friday, October 27, 2006

Real Football 365: Longshore Contemplates Going on LDS Mission

By Todd Erickson

Say what? You might be going on a mission? The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that California Golden Bears QB Nate Longshore is contemplating when he will serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormons. The operative word in the article is "when," not "if." The 6-foot-5, 233-pound Longshore, who is currently rated one of the top college quarterbacks (151.7 passer rating, 1,877 yards, 17 TDs, seven INTs) and rapidly growing into an NFL-caliber signal caller with every new game under his belt, is quoted as saying: "I'm definitely going to go at some point, but timing is really the issue." His older brother Nick served a two-year mission to the Philippines and is currently on BYU's roster, listed as a senior offensive lineman.

But why didn't Longshore opt to go on his mission after breaking his leg in last year's season opener? Allowing healing time for his leg before departing, he could have returned in time for the 2008 season with three years of eligibility remaining. In hindsight, the redshirt sophomore's timetable for serving a mission seems a bit off-kilter, now that he is leading one of the most potent scoring machines in college football to possibly its first ever BCS bowl appearance. Nevertheless, if he is truly intent on serving a mission, it would seem that the timing dictates leaving after this season. That would give him two more seasons to play after he returns from his voluntary service.

Jeff Tedford, who welcomed All-American center Marvin Philip back to the Cal program following the completion of his mission in 2003, might also have to recruit his starting quarterback all over again, since 18 months into his two-year mission, Longshore would become eligible to transfer without penalty to any other Division I-A program. If you don't think that could happen, take a look at Ben Olson, UCLA's redshirt sophomore QB. He spent his freshman year riding the bench at BYU, served a two-year mission in Canada, and then transferred to UCLA upon his return to the States. Arguably, Longshore's situation is dramatically different, in that he has already claimed the starting QB slot at Cal and has ably proven himself during the course of the Bears' 7-1 start this season. The success of this season could very well weigh heavily upon his decision-making, especially if Cal finally busts into the BCS.

For the record, most LDS student-athletes plan to begin their missions soon after they turn 19 years of age, the minimum age limit for Mormon missionaries. Can you imagine the headaches BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall faces with this situation affecting 15 to 20 of his student-athletes each year? A few years ago, Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti lured Haloti Ngata to the Ducks program with promises to let him take leave for a mission. As it turned out, Ngata never did see the mission field. His father was killed in a tragic auto accident during his freshman season, and the following year, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Ngata turned in an All-American performance as a junior in 2005, and feeling the weight of responsibility to provide for his siblings, opted to join the pro ranks as an underclassman. He was a first-round pick (12th overall) to the Baltimore Ravens in this year's NFL draft. Serving a mission after Longshore graduates from Cal would appear to be out of the question, considering that a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract from an NFL team would not sit on the table for two years.

Here is the link.

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