"I think it would be cool to go to a Third World country."
I talk to a lot of kids about what they want to do after high school and Jasen Egolf's response was one of the most profound statements I've heard from an athlete.
The Hebron senior distance runner is of the Mormon faith, a religion whose members often go on missions to help the less fortunate around the world. Until a few years ago, when he became more active in his church, he was admittedly rather pedestrian in his beliefs.
"Honestly, I never saw myself going on a mission," Egolf said.
That's until Egolf went to Brigham Young on a recruiting visit some months ago and spoke to runners about their personal experiences.
"It was amazing," he said. "They talked about how you give two years of your life away to serve other people, you forget about running, school, social life, and it's the two best years of your life. It really inspired me. It sparked a fire in my heart."
Egolf prayed and fasted about it and one morning, his mother randomly brought up the subject of a mission and how she thought he had the leadership qualities to do one.
"Right there, I knew God was giving me what I needed to do," he said. "It's what I want to do. I've been inspired to do good, to teach the Gospel, help as many people as I can."
Utah State has signed Egolf to a scholarship knowing that the mission is part of the deal and he won't run for the school until 2014. It is the norm rather than the exception at the school, whose student population is 90 percent Mormon.
"Almost all the athletes go on missions," Egolf said.
Paperwork still has to be processed, but Egolf is excited to find out where his mission will take him.
"I think it would be really cool to experience a full different environment, every aspect of a culture," he said.
I give Egolf a lot of credit. When I was that age, I was fearful of going to school an hour-and-a-half away. He clearly dances to a different beat than most 18-year olds.
During cross country, he often ran wearing pink for cancer awareness. He can't remember the last time he's cussed. I told him he's obviously not a Cubs fan.
"Some of my friends give me a hard time when I'll say, 'Oh, shoot,'" Egolf said. "But they're all comfortable with it. I'm open with my religion. They know what my standards are."
Teammate and best friend Kyle Schmidt, who is Catholic, is also strong in his religious convictions. He corrects friends when they say "God" in an inappropriate context.
"They all know," Schmidt said. "If they say it, I'll kinda look at them, and they'll say, 'Oh, sorry, Kyle.' Honestly, I think it's helped them. ...(Religion) can be a very touchy situation, but it's never affected a friendship."
While the two are of distinct faiths, the bottom line is, they have faith, a set of beliefs that guides them in life. To their credit, they're not afraid to stand up and be heard in a culture, particularly at their age, where it's not necessarily considered cool to talk about God. Just look at Tim Tebow.
"I'm always out there trying to do something for a cause," Egolf said. "I want to stand out as a guy who had a good influence."
What more is there?
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.