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Morning links: Why Utah LDS returned missionary and Oakland Raider James Cowser is hanging out with Jimmer Fredette in China


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A photo of Jimmer Fredette standing next to Oakland Raiders players while holding up a No. 32 football jersey with his name on it made the rounds after the NFL team tweeted it out this week.

Unfortunately, the tweet was not to announce that the Raiders had signed Fredette to a contract. (Or maybe that's a fortunate thing.)

The post featured Fredette, former Southern Utah standout linebacker James Cowser in a Shanghai Sharks jersey and fellow Oakland linebacker Shilique Calhoun posing in China with the specially made Jimmer jersey, and included a fun line from the Raiders' official Twitter account.

"Jimmer still knows how to show up in March."

There's more to this story.

This isn't the first time Cowser has shown up in China. This is the second offseason in a row in which the former Davis High star has visited Hong Kong as an ambassador of sorts.

The 27-year-old was given that opportunity after the NFL found out that he spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese after having served a LDS mission in Hong Kong and Macau from 2009-11.

Along with visits to China, Cowser has done videos and even a webinar in Chinese for new fans of him and of the NFL in China.

"I have an opportunity to show the Chinese people a sport that I love, people that I love, and just bridge a gap between cultures," Cowser told ESPN. "It's China. What other team has this opportunity? What other player in the NFL speaks Chinese?"

Cowser went undrafted despite setting a Football Championship Subdivision record with 43.5 sacks during his four-year career in Cedar City and being named the 2015 FCS defensive player of the year. The 6-foot-3, 244-pound outside linebacker was waived and then re-signed by the Raiders before the 2016 season, and then got a chance to play as a rookie in the NFL.

The league, which is trying to build a presence and potentially a local professional league in China, might never allow Cowser to be cut again judging by how popular he is on his Chinese trips.

Cowser might even be more popular in the Asian country than he is back home where NFL players aren't as much of a rarity.

"I did a video there where I spoke in both Chinese and English, and afterwards local people were coming up to me and saying, 'You’re James Cowser,' and then tagging me in photos by posting, 'Look who I saw in Shanghai,'" Cowser said in a Player Engagement Insider article. "We were taking pictures of me in my helmet and full uniform in front of famous locales in Shanghai, so it was great to have people recognize me there as a real American football player, which doesn't always happen in the States."

Cowser shared a video of highlights from his recent trip to China on his Instagram page.

Touching tributes

In honor of International Women's Day, the Utah Jazz asked female fans to share stories about their fandom on Thursday. The thread is worth reading; here are a few samples.

And how about this one from sports writer Bill Oram, who moved to Utah from Oregon and ended up covering the Utah's NBA team for The Salt Lake Tribune. (Oram now covers the Los Angeles Lakers for the Orange County Register.)

More links

Former Utah/Mississippi State basketball player Marshall Henderson trying to show pro teams he's not the guy he used to be.

Friday is Rudy Gobert Bobblehead Night at the SLC Stars game.

And, finally, check out how Weber State star cornerback Taron Johnson was a hit — and got hit — at this week's NFL Combine:

Weekend planner


NBA: Jazz at Memphis, 6 p.m.

G League: Stars vs. Northern Arizona, 7 p.m.

ECHL: Grizzlies vs. Allen, 7 p.m.

Men’s basketball: WAC tournament (Utah Valley vs. Grand Canyon, 7 p.m., ESPN3); Big Sky tournament (Southern Utah vs. Eastern Washington, 7 p.m., Pluto-TV); Division II West regional (Dixie State vs. Azusa-Pacific, 3:30 p.m., livestream); MWC tournament (Utah State vs. New Mexico, 9:30 p.m., CBSS)

Gymnastics: Utah State at BYU/Penn State/Texas, 7 p.m., at Provo

Men’s volleyball: BYU vs. Lewis, 7 p.m., at Honolulu (Outrigger Resorts Invitational)

Skiing: NCAA championships (Slalom), at Steamboat Springs, Colorado


MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake, 1:30 p.m.

ECHL: Grizzlies vs. Allen, 7 p.m.

Men’s basketball: Region 18 district playoff (Arizona Western at SLCC, 7:30 p.m.)

Gymnastics: Utah at Michigan, noon

Men’s volleyball: BYU at Hawaii, 10 p.m. (Outrigger Resorts Invitational)

Skiing: NCAA championships (15/20K), at Steamboat Springs, Colorado


NBA: Jazz at New Orleans, 2 p.m.