[media-credit name=”Tyler Brown” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Weber State University students filled the Ogden LDS Institute of Religion Wednesday to hear Vai Sikahema, former NFL running back and current sportscaster for NBC 10, speak about how his faith supports him in his career.
After playing football for Brigham Young University, the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) drafted him in the 10th round of the 1986 NFL Draft. He also played for the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring in 1994. Sikahema was the first Tongan ever to play in the NFL.
“I had no idea they were training me in the South Dakota Rapid City mission to be a sportscaster in Philadelphia, Penn.,” Sikahema said. “If you’re pining to be a sportscaster, there’s no better training than going on a mission.”
For zone conferences on his mission, Sikahema and the other missionaries each prepared two five-minute talks in advance on two different topics. When everyone assembled, two random missionaries were called upon to give a talk.
“When I retired from football and started doing television, one of the things they asked me when I was interviewing was if I could speak in small increments, and if I could do it such that if they counted down to two minutes, could I say something very succinct, precise, coherent in a minute and a half,” Sikahema said. “I told them I could, because I had done that for two years at these zone conferences, and just while tracting.”
Sikahema attributed his success in his career and his personal life to always trying to stay true to his religious beliefs.
“I suspect the Lord has blessed me because, despite my deficiencies in academics and other deficiencies I’ve had in my life, the Lord has made up the gap primarily because, I think, that I always tried to do what was right,” Sikahema said. “Not always perfectly, but for the majority of my life I’ve tried to do what is right and I’ve tried to serve when the calls came.”
In a question-and-answer session after the devotional, one student asked if Sikahema faced struggles and conflicts while in the NFL since he’s Mormon.
“I realized I couldn’t be on the fence about my principles,” Sikahema said. “In the locker room after practices, when the other guys were asking me if I was coming with them to a strip club, it was a yes or no answer, right then. I’m so glad I made decisions about who I am before I was in that position.”
Sikahema encouraged students to work to stay close to and strengthen the church during their lives.
“Whatever you do, whatever line of work you go into, stay close to the church, because it will be a refuge,” Sikahema said. “In the process, as you go about getting your educations, it’s also important for you to understand that the time will come, or has come now, when you will be expected to strengthen the stakes of Zion. You do that by what you’re doing here on campus at Weber State University every single day.”
John Brassell, a teacher at the Institute, said he was delighted Sikahema could speak to WSU students.
“We just sit in a big meeting and throw out names, and someone said, ‘What about Vai Sikahema?’ But he lives back east, so we weren’t sure,” Brassell said. “When we heard he would be here for conference, though, we all got really excited because we knew the students would love it.”
Jordan Jestes, WSU freshman and broadcast major, said how Sikahema seemed to have stumbled into sportscasting is encouraging.
“Vai said he wasn’t a great student, and even though he said he got into sportscasting because he had played in the NFL, it seems like he got a job because he was talented, not just because of on-paper accomplishments,” Jestes said. “That’s comforting when school gets stressful because of studying and tests; I know if I just work hard to be good at what I want to do, I’ll have a chance.”