"I'm originally from Sudan, Africa," said L.D. Bell wide receiver Atem Bol. "I came to American in 1998 when I was around 11 years old. There is a war over there, and my mom wanted us to have an education and stuff. She wanted to get away from the war and to help us get a good education. That's why we left there and came here."
The Bol family would eventually settle in Hurst, Texas. Two years later, while sitting on the bus, young Atem Bol would make a decision that would forever change his and his family's life for ever.
"When I was back in middle school there was a lady who was my bus driver," Bol said. "She asked us if we wanted to go have some fun with some Boy Scout stuff. I was like, ‘Yes, I would like to go.' She was a really nice lady and so I went with her."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages young church members to become actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America. It was during such activities that a young boy from Sudan, Africa would eventually learn about the LDS Church.
"I then started going to church and learning more about the LDS Church," Bol said. "It then started changing me and stuff. I just started learning more about the prophet Joseph Smith. The more I learned, the more I started liking it. I then told my parents about it and then the missionaries started coming over to my house. They taught me more and more things about the church. I just started praying about it and stuff."
Not long after that, Bol started taking the missionary discussions. He would later be baptized into the LDS Church along with the rest of his rather large family.
"I became converted to be a Mormon two years later in 2000," Bol said. "I don't really know how to explain it, but it's changed my life. I was baptized in 2000, and it's been good. It's changed me a lot. I have one little sister who is 10 years old, and I have a little brother who is eight. I have another younger brother who is 12 and a big brother who is 19."
Bol felt that the more he changed his life to the standards of the gospel, the more he was blessed on the football field.
"After that, sir, I started doing well with football," Bol said. "I got a testimony of the gospel, and it changed my life. That's when things started changing for me with football."
The life-changing experiences did not stop with coming to a new country and joining a new religion. Today, Bol was offered a football scholarship from BYU. Overwhelmed with excitement, Bol committed to play football at Brigham Young University, and will now be able to fulfill a dream his mother had for him while fleeing Sudan.
"I committed to BYU today," Atem said excitedly. "Coach Higgins called my receiver's coach. [Gerry Stanford] told me to call him at his house, so I called him, and he told me, and I got really excited. So I called [Higgins] and told him that I wanted to commit to them. They offered me a scholarship today, and I committed to them today. I don't want to play for any other school but BYU.
Bol is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver who will represent the core values of BYU off the field and will bring the type of athleticism to the offense that will contribute to future success on the field.
"I'm pretty fast, I guess, but I don't know what my stats are," said Bol. "I think my coach keeps all that, but I don't really know what they are.
Bol was also being recruited by several other universities, but with the offer from the Cougars, nothing else matters now.
"I have Kansas and a team from New York but I forgot who they are," Bol said. "Missouri is one of them and Baylor University is another one. I know there are others but I don't have the list. My coach [Gerry] Stanford has the list. I've talked to some other coaches though, like Tulsa. I've talked with them.
"I just feel really good about my decision to play for BYU, and I'm excited. I know this is the best decision for me. My family is really excited too, really excited. I know this is going to help me to grow even more and to be even more responsible when I grow up. I know BYU will help me. All of the hard work has paid off now, and I'm really excited to come out there and play for my church school. I'm a laid back and relaxed kind of guy who only wants to play football for BYU and go on a mission."
After playing one year at BYU, Bol has aspirations of possibly returning to war-torn Sudan to teach his people about the gospel.
"After high school, I plan on going to BYU for one year then going on my mission," said Bol. "I would like to go back to Sudan and teach them about the church. I would like to serve my mission to Sudan to help them grow more and more. It doesn't really matter if there is a war over there or not. I know some things have changed since I was there but it doesn't really matter to me."