BYU football helps student find faith and a friend

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BYU football is more than just a game to Wes White — it’s a lifestyle.

White, a BYU student with cerebral palsy, caught his first glimpse of BYU football when the team competed in the Mountain West Conference against Colorado State, the closest university to his home in Colorado.

“Everything the team did reflected back on the church,” White said. “I noticed that winning football games was secondary to making sure the football program made the players better men, future husbands and future fathers.”

The example of the BYU coaches and players on and off the field caught White’s attention.  He wanted more than anything to be surrounded by a group of people like that.

The whole mentality of the BYU football program was so attractive to White that he started investigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through its website, learning more about its origins. He met with missionaries and was baptized soon after.

Jordan Jones
Wes White attends a BYU football game in 2017. White attended every game despite his cerebral palsy. (Jordan Jones)

White is the only member of the church in his family and said the idea of finding friends and people who shared his beliefs drew him to BYU.

“The athletes at BYU were exemplars of the faith on and off the field,” White said. “I thought that would be a really, really cool thing for me to try to get out to BYU and to be surrounded by people just like them.”

He finally decided to come to Provo while attending the Fort Collins Colorado Temple open house.

“I did everything I could to look at other universities and weigh my options because I really don’t like the snow and the cold, but everything still led me to BYU,” White said.

He told himself, “Let’s just do it. It’s the team I support; let’s see what can come out of this.”

White filled out his application for BYU and to this day can’t describe the feeling he had when he saw the word “accepted.” It was surreal — something special.

He began attending BYU in Fall 2017, just in time for football season.

Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder with symptoms that include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors. Despite having to walk with crutches from his dorm and up to his seat, White attended every football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium last fall.

White bought a season ticket to ensure he had a reserved seat at every game.

Jordan Jones, a stadium usher who was assigned to an upper-level portal near White’s seat, noticed it took White longer to get from place to place.

“He walked from the dorms to the stadium, which is quite a trek,” Jones said. “I was amazed that he would show up, traveling such a long distance on crutches.”

Jones and White got to know each other as they chatted during every game and eventually became good friends.

“Wes is very good at analyzing sports, and it’s something he deeply enjoys,” Jones said. “Football talk seemed to happen each game between us.”

Jones also mentioned that White is a straight-A student and works hard to get the most out of his education at BYU.

“He took a chance, a leap of faith, to come out here and receive an education from a school that he cheered for since a little child,” Jones said. “Wes has that ‘it’ factor that I think helps him battle with his condition. It’s been a privilege to know Wes, and I want him to know that we are all cheering him on to succeed out here.”

White said the challenges of living with cerebral palsy can be compared to a football game.

“I don’t win every day; I win somedays and I lose somedays,” White said. “But I still keep going.”

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