At the end of general conference in April 2019, the family of Gabriel and Heather Reid was watching when President Russell M. Nelson announced a new temple for Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Born and raised in American Samoa before playing football at Brigham Young University and in the NFL, Gabriel W. Reid suddenly had a strong impression to move his family to his homeland. They made preparations to move, even sending a load of possessions to American Samoa and purchasing airfare before COVID-19 prevented them from traveling there last June.
“People asked, ‘Have your plans changed? Are you still thinking about going down?’ But we were committed to going down,” Reid said. “The only person that can change our plans is the same person that told me I needed to go down there in the first place.”
Those plans did change in the form of a mission call as the 43-year-old and his wife have been assigned to preside over the Australia Sydney Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The Lord is in charge and he had other plans,” Reid said.
The Reids were among 105 Latter-day Saint couples to receive such a mission call Friday. Plans are in motion to begin their service in July.
Needless to say, the last several months have been something of a whirlwind for the Provo family.
“We’re doing good,” Gabriel Reid said. “A bit overwhelmed, but we’re doing good. We’re very excited and very grateful. ... We’ve never been there, but we already feel like we love the people. Everyone is excited. The plan to move to Samoa has prepared everyone for this change.”
BYU football fans will recognize Reid from his days as a Cougar tight end. After serving a two-year church mission to Santiago, Chile, he walked on to the BYU football team and wore the blue uniform from 1999-2002.
As an undrafted free agent, Reid had short stints with the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans before finding a home with the Chicago Bears from 2003 to 2006. Reid even saw playing time in Super Bowl XLI when the Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17.
“Look at the fact that he’s a kid from Samoa that went to the Super Bowl and played,” said Reno Mahe, a former BYU teammate and close friend of Reid. “For anybody that knows football, to be a walk-on and get to the NFL, it says amazing things about his work ethic.”
Today Reid owns a construction and environmental construction management company. While his NFL career didn’t bring him fame and glory, he is grateful for the lessons he learned along the way, such as work ethic and how to adapt to change. These and other experiences will help him to “keep pushing forward” amid similar challenges in this new assignment, Reid said.
“Obviously there’s more to life than football,” he said. “I feel like my NFL career, the challenges and the trials of bouncing around from team to team, moving my family around, actually helped prepare me for this calling in a lot of ways. ... The most important thing is relying on the Lord throughout the process. Even in the NFL there were times when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel, but I knew I was there specifically because I felt that that’s what Lord wanted me to do.”
Over the years, Reid has served as a young men’s president, a bishop and as the second counselor in a stake presidency. He’s currently serving as the first counselor in the Provo Utah 1st Stake presidency, a diverse Polynesian stake.
“Being a member of this stake has probably been one of greatest things that has prepared me to be a mission president,” he said.
In 2011, Reid was featured in the church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign.
After news of his call as mission president spread, Reid’s phone buzzed with messages of love and support from family, friends and former teammates. Many were not surprised to see the Reid family going to the mission field.
Jasen Ah You, BYU’s recruiting coordinator and a longtime friend, has served with Reid in various church callings. He described his friend using words like “humble,” “motivator,” “infectious” and “positive.” If he could find a way to make it happen, Ah You and his wife would apply to serve as a couple with the Reids in Australia.
“When you’re around Gabe, you want to be good because good is cool,” Ah You said. “He’s everything you would want in a mission president.”
“When you’re around Gabe, you want to be good because good is cool. He’s everything you would want in a mission president.” — Jasen Ah You
Former NFL quarterback Brandon Doman and Reid played together for three years at BYU and to this day are close friends. Reid endeared himself to Doman when he facilitated the adoption of a Samoan child into the Doman family. Doman sees Reid as a dynamic leader with a compassionate heart and believes the Reid family will be a tremendous blessing to the missionary work in Australia.
He’s also a little jealous of Reid’s mission destination.
“I’m just trying to figure out why he gets to go to Sydney,” Doman said with a laugh. “If you were to handpick one mission ... there’s a lot of places you could go, I’m just trying to figure out why he’s the lucky one that gets to go to the celestial kingdom. I’m not sure what he did to deserve that. He’s a fortunate guy.”
Mahe is happy for Reid, who he sees as “a man of high integrity and character.” They’ve experienced a lot together over the years.
“Whether he knows it or not, Gabe has been such an anchor for me with his faith and example,” Mahe said. “He’s been there for me, that spiritual giant I can always lean on. Nothing but love for that guy. I am going to miss him.”
Reid isn’t the first retired professional athlete to preside over a Latter-day Saint mission. In 2018, former Major League Baseball pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and his wife received a call to serve in Houston. Two-time National League MVP and seven time All-star Dale Murphy and his wife Nancy presided over the Massachusetts Boston Mission from 1997-2000. Bruce Summerhays retired from professional golf to preside over the Florida Tampa Mission from 2010-2013.