Bronson Kaufusi was in the Green Bay Packers’ locker room last spring following an off-season workout when he met rookie safety Christian Uphoff.
The new teammates struck up a friendly conversation and decided to go fishing.
With lines cast and waiting for a nibble, Uphoff casually asked Kaufusi about his service as a Latter-day Saint missionary in New Zealand.
Little did both men know the question would lead to a deep conversation about faith, months of religious discussions and eventually result in Uphoff’s baptism.
“It was just awesome to see him feel that joy and happiness that comes when you make decisions that can change your life,” Kaufusi told the Deseret News. “It was really great to see.”
With the NFL regular season close to getting underway, Kaufusi posted photos and news on Instagram that he baptized Uphoff as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday.
“One of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” Kaufusi wrote.
Uphoff, a 6-foot-3, 209-pounder who played at Illinois State from 2017 to 2019, signed with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent. Uphoff’s 2020 fall season with the Redbirds was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team also opted out of most of the FCS spring season.
“Before the draft, me and my agent were talking and he was like, ‘If you don’t get drafted, where do you want to go?’ I was like, ‘Green Bay,’” he said. “I just knew Green Bay was a good place for undrafted free agents.”
Kaufusi, a former BYU and Timpview High star, was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. After a few years in Baltimore, Kaufusi moved on to the New York Jets, where he switched positions to tight end. He signed with Green Bay earlier this year.
Kaufusi’s NFL career has been full of unexpected twists and turns.
“Oh, man, I feel like it’s just like anything in life. There’s a lot you don’t control,” Kaufusi said. “It’s your job to take whatever is given, just run with it and just make the best of it. You never know what can happen.”
Such as when a teammate expresses interest in your faith.
After Kaufusi related some missionary experiences, Uphoff asked about the scriptures and they started reading the Bible together. Next, the safety asked to meet with the Latter-day Saint missionaries.
For a while, they attended church worship services via Zoom and had Zoom meetings with the missionaries. There were more discussions and scripture-reading sessions when it was safe to meet in person.
“He loves reading the scriptures,” Kaufusi said of Uphoff. “He’d say, ‘Let’s read some scriptures.’ I would think, ‘Oh, he probably wants to read for 15 minutes.’ Then we would read for a couple of hours. I loved it. It was awesome to see someone so dedicated and really searching for more.”
Seeing his friend and teammate find spiritual happiness left Kaufusi with a deep sense of gratitude. Many have been supportive of Uphoff, who declined the opportunity to be interviewed.
“I know how much the gospel has blessed my life, and to have one of my teammates be able to experience that for themselves and make this decision, it was an amazing experience. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I feel so fortunate that I’m able to be a part of it and I’m just so happy for him.”
Both Kaufusi and Uphoff were released Tuesday as NFL teams trim their initial active rosters to 53 players for the regular season, but both players could be signed to the Packers’ practice squad, according to reports.
Kaufusi recently drew praise from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers for his cheerful disposition.
“Our tight end, Bronson Kaufusi, I love him. One of the happiest guys ever,” Rodgers said.
The flattering remark from the 2020 NFL MVP meant a lot to Kaufusi.
“It was really cool that he said that, honestly, because he’s such a great player and a great leader,” Kaufusi said. “I’m always trying to be myself and that’s really just who I am. I thought it was such a huge compliment, just so incredibly nice of him to say that.”