By Mark Wright
Brinton Convinced He's Better Than Before Mission
Brinton Convinced He's Better Than Before Mission
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN -- Very few highly skilled athletes would propose
taking a two-year hiatus from a sport like football in order to
improve their ability to perform and excel at that sport. However,
very few athletes are Spencer Brinton. To say that Brinton's journey
from San Diego State University to South Africa to the campus of
Michigan has been a little unusual is an understatement of
significant proportions. Brinton, a recently returned missionary for
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just completed a
two-year mission in South Africa and is convinced that he is a better
football player now than he was before he left on his mission.
While serving a mission can be a life-changing experience and provide
new insights for any young man, Brinton has developed a perspective
that he believes will enable him to play football at a higher level.
Brinton also gives his mission credit for his newfound perspective
and peace of mind on the field. "When I look at defenses, before they
were kind of a blur," Brinton said. "But now they sink in and my mind
While he didn't play a lot of football in Africa, Brinton found ways
to work at being an athlete, even while serving a mission. For
example, Brinton would often rise at 5:30 a.m., earlier than required
by the mission rules, to give himself time for exercise, running,
doing sit-ups and push-ups, all in an effort to maintain some level
of fitness. Brinton also used preparation day to throw the football
around, although he had some difficulty finding companions that could
run the speedy routes he was accustomed to. In addition to the
physical and mental aspects of football, Brinton had a number of
experiences on his mission that helped him better understand his
place in the world and how to live a better life.
One day, when the missionary work was a little slow, Brinton noticed
one family's yard was overgrown and particularly in need of help.
Without receiving a request or waiting for an invitation, he began
working on their yard. Soon, Brinton had attracted a crowd of people
who stood and stared from windows and doorways at the 6-foot-5,
220-pound missionary working away in the yard. For many Africans,
living in a country steeped in discrimination and racial inequality,
this was the first time they had seen a white man helping a black man
in their community. "It's the simple act of service," Brinton said.
"You go out and you help people. You serve them rather than serving
yourself. And at the same time, you learn a lot of things -- not only
about the other people, but about yourself."
Originally recruited to San Diego State University, Brinton had a
solid if not spectacular career as a freshman quarterback, starting 6
games and finishing with a 4-2 record. However, Brinton injured his
hand early in his sophomore season and was forced out of for the rest
of the year. That left him with some serious time to reflect on life
and that's when Brinton decided to serve a mission, recognizing the
injury as the catalyst for his decision. "I would not have gone on a
mission had the injury not happened," he said. "I couldn't just pick
up and leave the program. You can't do that. But the injury gave me
the opportunity to see what I wanted to do. I believe that everything
happens for a reason. I am thankful for the opportunity."
At the end of his mission, when it was time for Brinton to return, he
selected a new college to attend by placing a 30-minute phone call to
each of the five schools he was considering, Michigan, Oklahoma,
Mississippi, Arkansas and Arizona. Once it became clear that Michigan
was a possibility, Brinton quickly made up his mind. "Why not come to
Michigan? That is the question you should ask," Brinton quipped.
"There is so much to offer here. When you talk about tradition, when
you talk about college football, the first thing that pops up in your
mind is Michigan.
Now basking in the glow and warmth of his opportunity, Brinton is
living out the dream of many young men who hope to play football for
a college with a storied football tradition such as Michigan. Whether
or not Brinton will be successful, or even play a game, as a
quarterback for the Wolverines remains to be seen. But, according to
Brinton, his mission not only prepared him to be a better
quarterback, it also helped him realize he doesn't even need to be a
quarterback to be successful in life. "I understand things better
now. I have them in perspective. Before the mission, I had my
priorities in the wrong order. Now I believe I understand what is
most important, what is the reason in life."
Michigan's new QB draws on experiences from South African mission
Yahoo! Sports (Michigan Daily) 29May01 S2
By Steve Jackson: Michigan Daily
Brinton starts to feel right at home Transfer QB, mission abroad under his belt, says he feels welcome at U-M
Ann Arbor MI News 29May01 S2
Missionary, U Michigan Choose Each Other, Sight Unseen