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Where is Bronco Mendenhall today? 5 takeaways from Mendenhall’s interview with Church News

Coach Mendenhall and his wife, Holly, speak about family, faith and football and all they’ve learned since leaving the University of Virginia

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Former college football coach Bronco Mendenhall rests his arms on a fence and looks over his ranch in Bigfork, Montana.

Former college football coach Bronco Mendenhall looks over his ranch in Bigfork, Montana, on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In Wednesday’s episode of the Church News podcast, co-hosts Sarah Jane Weaver and Sheri Dew interviewed former BYU and Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his wife, Holly.

About a year and a half ago, Bronco Mendenhall left his position as head coach of the University of Virginia’s football team. In the podcast, he talks about his faith and his decision to take a break from the game he loves in order to answer some personal questions about who he was.

Here are five things the Mendenhalls have learned from his coaching career and their break from the profession:

1. Faith guides beliefs, beliefs guide values, and values guide decisions

“Faith is important,” Bronco said during the interview. A large part of how he coached players, both at Brigham Young University and the University of Virginia, focused on Latter-day Saint values.

“If our values really are that families are eternal — and that’s most important with our faith — then we tried hard to make sure that was reflected in our work schedule, regardless of the time of year,” he told the Church News.

“There’s not a decision that I make or that we make that doesn’t start with our beliefs. And our beliefs then guide the principles, and our principles guide our choices.“

2. There are more important things than football

Often, Bronco focused on values that resounded far beyond football, including the emphasis on service and taking needed time off from practice. While he said football is an important part of his life, he is first and foremost a disciple of Christ.

“I’m a member of the church. I work as hard as I can to be a disciple of Christ. I do all I can imperfectly to follow our Savior’s teachings. I do everything I know how to do.”

Often, young male (and female) members of the church serve missions that focus on helping others learn of Christ. Bronco said that during that time, “football can wait.”

“What they’re going to do out there will be more profound, more lasting and more eternal.”

3. The value of aligning football with faith

Living their faith’s values on and off the field, changed not only their lives but the players’ lives.

“We haven’t found anything as impactful with developing young men than college football,” Bronco said. “It’s because of the interest, the scope and scale, and then intentionality to add the other parts to it. We haven’t found anything else that’s similar or as impactful.”

By living their beliefs, Bronco said that it generated a lot of interest in the Church of Jesus Christ. And by “responding to questions that were generated through the visibility and the success” they were able to testify of Christ. It “was the most powerful way and the most fun,” Bronco said.

For example at BYU, away games involved a fireside focused on faith the night before the game, which sometimes generated thousands of people.

“We didn’t swoop in and try and change people’s faiths,” Holly said. “We embraced them, and we educated them — there was a lot of misinformation and just unknowing.”

4. ‘Relationships are lasting and worth investing in’

Throughout the years of being a coach, Bronco said that the moments and “relationships trump everything.”

He spoke of the countless messages he’s received throughout the years. “Of the hundreds — I haven’t kept track — one message has mentioned a game or a score. Every other message has mentioned moments.”

“Relationships are lasting and worth investing in,” he said.

5. Taking a step back can make for a clearer view

While football is important to him, he said. “If you’re not careful, your profession can creep in and maybe feel more important” than everything.

“I was feeling a little too tilted toward ‘football is everything,’” Bronco said of his choice to step down as head coach — he felt he was losing sight of who he was.

So he stepped down to rediscover “who am I really?”

“I thought I knew,” he said. “But now, after a year, I’m realizing that I didn’t have as clear an idea.”

“Clarity has come with some distance,” he said. “And we are football coaches. I am much more clear: yes, that we want to, and how come.”

“Stay tuned,” he said.