For some players, competing in Division I collegiate football is the achievement of a lifetime.
For some, it can wait a couple years.
After spending his freshman year at Yale in 2003, Shebby Swett ’09, spent two years in Italy on a Mormon mission. Swett, who describes himself as a devout Mormon, postponed two years of his Yale education and his career as a Bulldog fullback to work on the mission.
“I decided to serve a mission in the late fall of my freshman year,” Swett said. “It was something I always assumed I would do, but a few special experiences that fall helped me know it was the right time for me to go.”
Swett spent the two years in northern Italy proselytizing for his church, teaching local Italians about the Mormon faith, while working nine hours each day on the mission.
“My mission was the most important experience of my life to date,” he said.
His decision to go on the mission was not without consequences, as it delayed his football career by two years. He admitted that his religious convictions have conflicted with his involvement in football throughout his life, not just logistically, but mentally as well.
“I think there is a bit of tension in general between the ideal Christian temperament and the nature of football,” he explained. “It is a conqueror’s sport, whereas Christianity calls for meekness.”
According to Swett, the length of his mission also affected his physical ability, preventing him from a swift return to the field.
“I felt like a car stuck in first gear,” he said. “Most of my strength and explosiveness was gone.”
However, with the support of the coaching staff, he was able to return his body to playing shape.
“The coaches understood how important the mission was to me and what it meant for my football career,” he said. “I don’t know if they were thrilled to see me go, but I hope they’d admit that an extra two years helped me become the best football player possible.”
Linebacker Bobby Abare ’09, captain of the football team and Swett’s roommate, echoed Swett’s reflections on the coaching staff’s support.
“Sheb usually has to go to church on Sundays and may have to miss some team stuff,” Abare said. “But our coaches are very understanding of that and rightfully so.”
Abare also described the support that Swett’s teammates show him, despite the conflicts which his devotion to his religion bring.
“Everyone loves Shebster,” Abare proclaimed. “He likes to play jokes a lot, and we appreciate him for it.”
Swett, who will start at fullback for the Bulldogs this fall, has no regrets about taking a leave of absence to go on the mission.
“I feel much more confident about my faith after spending two years talking about it, so my own behavior has changed a bit,” he said. “I’m more open about who I am and how I try to conduct myself.”
Defensive end Brady Hart ’09 also commented on Swett’s comfort in his role on the team.
“He fits in very well with his teammates despite being away for two years and basically having to make a new group of friends,” Hart said.
Although balancing his athletic duties with his religion may take some effort, Swett places a strong value on his role on the team.
“I’m really just trying to enjoy myself out there on the field and to help everyone else do the same,” he explained. “If I can do that, while playing to the best of my ability, I’ll be happy.”