The fields are vastly different.But for Inoke Funaki, the lessons learned in the mission field go with him every time he steps on the gridiron."You learn so much through experience, so many things that you can't learn in school," says Funaki, a third-string quarterback for the University of Hawaii in 2007. "I try to always remember the things that I learned and apply them to my life and also to football."On New Year's Day, Funaki and his Warrior teammates took the field in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl as only the third team from a non-Bowl Championship Series conference to compete in a BCS game. Six days later, another third-string quarterback who served a mission, Andrew Hatch, watched as his Louisiana State University Tigers won a national championship on the same Superdome turf.Returned missionaries were certainly well-represented this college football bowl season.Going from full-time elder to full-time student-athlete is not unique to football programs in the state of Utah. Players on bowl-participating teams like Hawaii, LSU, Boise State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Oregon have gone from laboring as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to competing within some of college football's most energetic and passionate environments. Along the way, they've experienced the benefits and challenges of service and encountered numerous opportunities to share stories from their previous field.Being a football player at Boise State University means being part of something unique — and not just because of the blue turf the Broncos play on."We're the center of attention when it comes to athletics and entertainment, and everyone kind of clings to that," said Dallas Dobbs, who served a mission from 2001 to 2003 in Salta, Argentina.As a member of the Boise State program, Dobbs was on the sidelines a year ago for the 2007 Fiesta Bowl — a captivating victory over Oklahoma that long will be remembered for its memorable plays and improbable swings in momentum. Dobbs, a special-teams player at the time, made one tackle."I've never gone from thinking that we lost to we won so many different times," he said. "It was the best game I've ever been a part of."This year, Hawaii tried to replicate Boise State's success story. The Warriors played their way into the Sugar Bowl with an undefeated regular season but lost to the Georgia Bulldogs in a lopsided 41-10 contest.Two spots from Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan on the depth chart, Funaki was able to experience the best college football season in the history of his home state."Here in Hawaii, we're the only show on the island," said Funaki, a sophomore who served a mission in the Dominican Republic after graduating from Kahuku High School in 2002. "This is where all the focus is."While Dobbs and Funaki have witnessed considerable success in the Western Athletic Conference, two other returned missionaries have experienced arguably the highest level of college football — the Southeastern Conference.Hatch, who served in Chile Conception South, had a sideline view of LSU's national championship season. The Henderson, Nev., native has been impressed with the commitment and dedication of the fans who pack Tiger Stadium — otherwise known as "Death Valley.""Every home game has 92,000-plus people just going crazy and showing their support," Hatch said. "There's like an electric energy."LSU earned a spot in the national-championship game after beating Tennessee for the SEC title on Dec. 1. Across the field, another returned missionary was playing his final conference game for the Volunteers.J.T. Mapu, a highly recruited defensive lineman who like Funaki attended Kahuku High School, signed with the University of Tennessee in 2002 and played two seasons before serving a mission to Houston. He returned for two more years with the Volunteers, who play their home games in front of 102,000 orange-clad fans at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn."I consider myself really blessed," Mapu says.For Mapu and Dobbs, the most difficult transition they faced is a familiar one for RM athletes — getting back into shape.Mapu, a defensive lineman who now plays at 283 pounds, returned to Tennessee weighing 315. Dobbs, who signed with Southern Utah University out of Chaparral High School in Las Vegas, decided to attend Boise State upon his return, but his body wasn't ready for Division I football.The junior linebacker, who came home from Argentina weighing 180 pounds but considers his ideal playing weight to be between 220 and 225 pounds, cited being "behind physically" as the most difficult transition he faced.There are also adjustments beyond just the physical.For Funaki, the challenge was a matter of perspective. After devoting two years to service, turning his attention to his own eduction and football career wasn't easy."The whole focus changes from other people to me," Funaki said. "I was so used to trying to focus on other people and how to help them."Hatch's story involves an unlikely transfer from the Ivy League to the SEC.His return was expedited because of a knee injury suffered while playing soccer in Chile. Hatch walked with a torn meniscus for two months, but ultimately, his knee required surgery. After three months of rehabilitation, Hatch was released from missionary service and decided to pursue his education at Harvard, where he played as a freshman.But his ties to former BYU head coach Gary Crowton, who had worked with Hatch during football camps in Provo, ultimately led him to Baton Rogue, La. Crowton became the offensive coordinator at LSU after the 2006 season. The Tigers needed another quarterback and offered Hatch the chance to earn a scholarship, which he eventually did."This just kind of came up and just seemed like a great opportunity," he said.In four years, Hatch has been all over the country — and world."I feel like that's definitely been unique," he says. "But definitely it's been challenging because I've been in a different place each of the last four years.... That definitely gives you a good chance to grow."For Dobbs, the difficult transition from mission field to football field isn't much of a consideration."If I had to choose between a mission and football, it'd be a mission hands-down," he said. "I wouldn't put any thought into what I'd have to give up. I received 10 times more education there in Argentina serving those people than I have in college."But football success has come, although it did take some time.As a sophomore on the Fiesta Bowl team, Dobbs played sparingly and didn't even letter. The following season, he became a starter and received the "Bronco Excellence Award" as the team's most improved player. He was named WAC player of the week after his four-tackle, one-interception effort against Utah State.Dobbs attributes the turnaround to three factors — increased individual effort, playing a new position and a change in the coaching staff that afforded him more repetitions in practice."That's when I started getting better," he said.Dobbs will return in 2008 as part of an all-senior starting-linebacker corps. Another returned missionary on the Bronco roster, Mitch Rudder, should compete for a starting job at center. Rudder (Arcadia, Calif., mission), a freshman from Nampa, Idaho, was a backup on the offensive line in 2007.The two third-string quarterbacks will have a chance to move up the depth charts in the coming season. LSU loses senior starter Matt Flynn, but backup Ryan Perrilloux, who saw extensive time in 2007, will return as a junior. Hatch appeared in two games in his first season at LSU.Hawaii backup Tyler Graunke will return for his senior season in 2008. Funaki will be a junior, but even though he was third in line this past season, the Warriors' prolific offense allowed him to appear in five games. Funaki was 10-of-15 for 136 yards and three touchdowns."I don't know how many third-string quarterbacks get to play as much as I have," he says.Other returned missionaries to watch in 2008 are Oregon's Will Tukuafu (Jamaica) and UCLA's Ben Olson (Alberta, Canada).Tukuafu, a defensive end from East High School in Salt Lake City, had 36 tackles (8.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a starter in 2007. He contributed a tackle-for-loss in Oregon's 56-21 win over South Florida in the Sun Bowl.Olson, the promising quarterback who attended BYU before serving a mission, has battled injuries throughout his career but still has his senior season remaining.Mapu's career at Tennessee ended when he started in the Volunteers' 21-17 victory over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.Two other returned missionaries on Boise State's roster closed out their careers in the 41-38 loss to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 23. Sherm Blaser (Riverside, Calif.), a tight end from Meridian, Idaho, and Sione Tavake (New York), a defensive tackle from East High School in Salt Lake City, were both seniors for the 10-3 Broncos.Texas A&M middle linebacker Misi Tupe (Philippines), from Salt Lake City, was the Aggies' second-leading tackler in 2007 and closed out his senior season with eight stops in the Alamo Bowl against Penn State. His teammate, receiver Michael Corey (Dallas, Texas) of Delta, Utah, had no catches but contributed two tackles in that game. Arizona State starting defensive lineman Michael Marquardt (Argentina) played his final college game in the Holiday Bowl against Texas and was credited with six tackles and a fumble recovery.Dobbs says being a returned missionary means getting teased about his age and riding a bicycle, but that's about it."For the most part, it's really not an issue in any way," he says. "You're just another member of the team."According to Hatch, being in the South means that people aren't as familiar with the LDS Church, but there is a lot of interest in his missionary experience."I just explain that we're out there giving a lot of service and teaching and talking to people who are interested in our church," he said.Mapu, who spent his entire playing career in Knoxville, says that once Tennessee coaches knew he was serious about serving a mission, they were supportive. Upon his return, there were plenty of opportunities to talk about his service in Houston."It's always fun to share," he said. "A lot of people are curious."Even in Idaho and Hawaii, where there are more members of and familiarity with the LDS Church, there is no shortage of questions for returned missionaries. In fact, Dobbs says he has the opportunity to talk about his mission every day."(Teammates are) very curious because that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... especially because it's a foreign country," he says.Says Funaki: "They have a lot of questions, just curious about why I was there for two years straight away from football."It's been a good opportunity for me to share about the church."