Great Sacrifices Bring Great Rewards

Committing to play football at BYU was not a hard choice for former Lone Peak High School linebacker and fullback Matt Ah You. He's had cousins and a brother play for BYU, and even his father Charles was a Cougar during the 70s. What Matt Ah You didn't know was how much the sacrifice of not playing football would affect him and others forever.

"My mission experience was unreal," said Matt Ah You. "It was the best experience of my life. In Philadelphia you serve among a people that don't have very much. I served in the inner city of Philadelphia my whole mission and it's a hard place where these people live. They're a people that don't have very much. There are some rough people there and in some places in Philadelphia the murder rate is [one] of the highest in the nation, but most respected the missionaries and knew what they were there for."

While serving among the hardened and downtrodden people of the inner city, Elder Ah You witnessed the changing perspectives of the impoverished who simply felt that you lived life simply to live. He saw a people, that once had no hope due to their conditions, come to realize that simply living is not what they are truly here for.

"When you teach people the gospel, and as they begin to understand it, there's a light that they've never seen before that comes on," Ah You said. "It's amazing to see people who have nothing realize that the situation in which they're living in is not what they're living for. It brings a lot of hope to a people that don't have much, and even though they're still in the ghetto and their financial situations don't change, they're no longer affected by it as much because they know there's a purpose to life, which helps them to rise above it. "

The rapid growth of the LDS faith among the people of Philadelphia is something Ah You can attest to, having labored much along those old streets over the past two years. The former missionary personally feels the Lord has not forgotten those people.

"The church is really growing out there," said Ah You. "The growth of the church from converts is really amazing. These are the last days and the Lord has said in the scriptures that He will gather in His sheep, and in Philadelphia that's what is going on. Missionary work is going very well out there and it's very successful right now."

Having enjoyed much success as a missionary, is there a possibility that Ah You just may have baptized any future BYU football players?

"I may have," said a chuckling Ah You. "I baptized a lot of families and they have a lot of kids with teenagers. I was trying to get them to all come out to BYU. Many of them still have a few years before that could ever happen though."

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has made it clear to the public, and to those he recruits, that his program's philosophy centers primarily on developing the character of young men first and foremost. The belief is that by creating greater personal development and excellence, the results will then transfer onto the football field. To Coach Mendenhall, football is merely the vehicle by which a greater purpose is accomplished. With BYU having gone undefeated in conference two years in a row with back-to-back Las Vegas Bowl wins - first against Oregon and then UCLA - it's hard to scoff at the program's philosophy.

On the mean streets of Philadelphia, Elder Ah You was able to use a similar "football is the vehicle" philosophy for achieving the greater good. As a former BYU linebacker who hung up his cleats and put the game he loves on the sidelines for two years, Elder Ah You was able to break down walls and barriers among his fellow Philadelphians.

"I used BYU football a lot on my mission, and it was a great tool, an amazing tool," said Ah You. "It was crazy because you're out in the east where you don't think people know about BYU football, but in reality everyone knows what Brigham Young University is and what it represents. It's amazing and was a great missionary tool, especially when people [were] trying to get to talk to you. There were times when people wouldn't want to talk to you, but when I would talk about football they would open up and let me in. Then when I got to telling them that I played for BYU, they were like, 'Yeah, they're doing really good!' It would only help me open them up and allow me to get to their hearts so I could teach them what's really important, and that's the gospel. Football was the tool to get me in there, and then once I was able to become close to them I could help change their lives."

"I did this all the time. I mean, I didn't go around telling people that I play football, but if they would ask me, then I would tell them. I would tell certain people that I knew would be more open to me talking to them. They would ask me questions like, 'What it was like and how does it feel to play football?' because when I was there at BYU we played against some big time teams."

Once Elder Ah You was able to endear himself to those around him, one question frequently came up.

"A question that I was always asked was, 'Why would you give all that up?' or 'Why would you leave that all behind?" said Ah You. "I was also asked, 'Which one is better: playing football or serving a mission?' When I would tell them that I would pick serving a mission over football any day, they were just amazed and very surprised."

Of course, this only lead people who were listening to want to learn more of what Elder Ah You had to say. Seeing his example and sacrifice to leave behind the experience of playing football at BYU helped them to make further changes in their lives.

"They were always surprised and amazed to see a bunch of young men leaving their families, their work or football to go out and serve the Lord," Ah You said. "When they understood what we did just to be out there, it made what they needed to do much easier in order for them to come into accordance of God's will. It's really hard to expect those in whom you are teaching to make sacrifices if you yourself aren't willing to make them. Jesus Christ sacrificed it all, and so it's required that we are willing to do the same things, so when these people saw that we had sacrificed something that we love for the opportunity to teach them, then they feel that this is something really important and they need to take a greater look at it because this kid left everything he had to come teach me about it."

Ah You's wisdom of using his sacrifice of football as a missionary tool yielded the greater good.

"I was able to baptized entire families," said Ah You. "And I wasn't the only one. but we have another missionary out there that played football at BYU in Braden Hansen. I had the chance to serve around him and I always kept in touch with him during my mission, and he's having success as a missionary. He's doing an amazing job out there as well. He's a big boy and is just out there doing his thing, serving the Lord. "

Now that Elder Matt Ah You is home following a successful mission, he has turned his focus towards the next phases of his life. Since he's been home, Ah You has been working out in order to put himself into the best possible position come game time, knowing BYU has graduated many senior linebackers. Ah You understands that without a redshirt year to give and only two years to play two, the demands will be tough, but they are demands he's willing to take on.

"I'm around 210 pounds right now," said Ah You. "I feel good and I feel light. I think my ideal playing weight will be around 225. The coaches at BYU will get me on a program that will allow me to get myself back in shape and to reach my ideal playing weight. When I on my mission, I ran every morning. My goal now is to work out hard and get ready so I can get a starting spot on the team wherever I can. The coaches want me to take it slow because they've seen how guys have come back from their missions and went all-out, only to pull their hamstrings or hurt themselves because they've been away from the game so long. My goal is to be as 100 percent as much as I can be when it comes game time this up and coming season. We have a lot of talent on this team. We have a lot of underclassmen with great leadership on the team and the coaching staff that will help us to achieve greater things. Coach Mendenhall and his coaches are amazing coaches. To them, football is secondary. They work on first getting the man straight, and once that's done everything else follows."

Another phase of his life will come once he marries the girlfriend he left behind to serve the Lord in Philadelphia. Ah You has since become engaged and will be married in the San Diego Temple on February 23.

"She waited for me, and I even knew before I left on my mission she was my girl," said Ah You. "Great sacrifices bring great rewards."

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