Abilene Cooper High School receiver Trey Dye moved to Texas from Utah years ago. The son of former BYU football star James Dye, he found himself living in a new state and society not very familiar with his LDS faith or religious standards.
“Just the fact that I'm Mormon and don’t do a lot of stupid things after school or on the weekend has really caught the attention of a lot of guys on my football team,” said Dye. “There’s been some interest in the Church because a lot of the kids here are like, ‘Mormon? What is that?’ because they don’t know much about the Church. The ones that do know about the Church usually make jokes and ask me how many moms I have and make jokes and try to be funny.”
When the opportunity arises, Dye takes the time to share his personal beliefs with his friends and teammates.
“Well, when they wanted to be serious about it I’ve sat down and talked to them,” he said. “They’ve asked me, ‘Well, what are the differences and what do you believe?’ I just told them that it’s nothing crazy like you may think, but we do have some unique qualities like a modern day prophet who leads and guides us in these last days. His name is Thomas S. Monson. They ask me about him and I tell them as much as I can about him and about our beliefs.”
Dye isn’t alone in his faith, though he is definitely still in the minority.
“Me and another one of our players named Johnny Hickmott, who is also Mormon and a very close friend of mine, are really the only two members of the Church on our team,” Dye said. “In the locker room we would lead by example. Other players would ask, ‘You don’t drink tea? You don’t drink alcohol or coffee? That’s crazy!’ I just said, ‘It’s really not that big of a deal once you learn to accept it. Once you do you realize you don’t really need those things in your life anyways.’ Then I just tell them, ‘If you’re ever interested in talking more about the Church, let me know.’”
With the offer extended, a few took Dye up on his word and began asking questions.
“Recently a good friend of mine – Lorenzo Joe, who is our quarterback – sat down with me just the other day to talk about the Church,” said Dye. “He goes to a nondenominational church out here. He said he goes, but it’s not really a specific religion. I asked him if he believes in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father and he said, ‘Yes I do.’ So I invited him over to my house to watch General Conference. He had eyes wide open like, ‘Wow, this is a big deal!’ He realized then it wasn’t a joke and something on a much bigger level. He seemed really interested after that and many of the guys on the team have followed his lead.”
Joining Joe – who has committed to play wide receiver at the University of Texas – in talking to Dye about his faith was wide receiver teammate Anthony Pierson.
“At first it was a joke but everybody knows what the Church is now and people take it seriously,” said Dye. “At first they didn’t respect it, but now everybody respects the fact that I don’t drink and I don’t smoke and do things like that. You still hear guys saying, ‘I'm going to go to that crazy party, and Trey, you’re not going to have any fun going to BYU.’ I just let them know that I’ve grown up this way and don’t need those things in my life that don’t elevate my life but only serve to distract and bring you down. Now many kids respect that and know that I’ll be here if they ever want to talk about it.”
Little did Dye know that his firm and unwavering efforts to be an example would catch the attention of Abiline’s starting running back Xavier McCann.
“He knew that I was Mormon and that my friend Johnny Hickmott and our old coach Zak Erekson, who moved away, was Mormon,” said Dye. “He knew that I didn’t drink and party, do drugs and that I didn’t play around when it comes to being a member of the Church. He just kind of knew that we were all members of the Church and that we took our faith seriously.
“Then one day Xavier came up to me and he said, ‘Hey, these missionaries – I think that’s what they are from your church – came over.’ I said, ‘Yeah? Did you talk to them or anything?’ He said, ‘Yeah, they’re coming back to talk to me again. Did you tell them where I lived?’ I said, ‘No, they must have just popped on by.’ We began talking more and more about it because he didn’t really have a religion that he belonged to before. After talking to him about it I knew he was serious and he gave it a shot.”
Prior to that, Dye and McCann never once spoke about the principles of faith or religion.
“His home life isn’t very good but his mom definitely loves him,” said Dye. “It’s just hard being in a single parent home, and he has sort of a problem with that male authority. He knows his father but he’s never really been around, so when the coaches ask him to do something, he’ll talk back saying, ‘Why? Why do I have to do this?’ or ‘Why do I have to do that?’ He can be really stubborn and resentful sometimes. The respect just wasn’t there that much.”
Now that McCann was investigating the LDS faith, Dye became actively involved in his friend’s journey to learn more about the Mormon faith.
“I started going over to his house with the missionaries that were teaching him,” Dye said. “It was a little bit later after he did his scripture reading. He began to read his copy of the scriptures and was asked to read about things. You could tell he was really excited about the things he was learning. He was really feeling it.
“Then he started talking to me and my father about the Church more. Then he said, ‘You know what, I’ll go to church with you,’ and he started coming to church more and more. He went with me to seminary on Wednesday and was really interested in it. He began feeling the Spirit.”
With every day that went by, McCann gained a greater understanding of why Dye lived his life the way he did. Then one day, McCann asked Dye to baptize him as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I was surprised he asked me to do it instead of my dad or the missionaries,” said Dye. “I guess it was me that he was comfortable with and that I was a big reason behind him wanting to do so. I told him, ‘I would love to baptize you.’ I was really nervous because I had never baptized anyone before. We had our personal talk and I told him, ‘You know, once you’re baptized you’re held accountable to a higher standard.’”
“I wanted Trey to do it because he’s one of my good friends,” said McCann. “He introduced me to going to church and I just felt like it was a good time to do it and start anew. I knew through prayer that this was right, and I wasn’t going to do this unless I knew that it was the right thing to do. I talked to God about it and asked Him about it to know if it was true. After I found out I asked Trey to be the one to baptize me, and it just makes me feel awesome to know that God knows who I am to send the missionaries out to teach me.”
The day finally came when the two friends and fellow teammates would walk down the steps and into the waters of the baptismal font. Dye held his hand to the square, and after saying the baptismal prayer, he lowered McCann beneath the water. It was an experience he’ll never forget.
“He came up out of the water and we just kind of looked at each other. He just had this look and a smile on his face,” Dye remembered. “After he looked at me he then gave me a big ol’ hug and said, ‘I love you bro.’ I told him that I love him too. It was just a special moment, and to just to share that moment with him and feel the Spirit and to see his face is a moment I’ll never forget.”
“I just felt clean and I just felt like the start of a new life was given to me,” said McCann. “It was a real blessing for me. It’s changed me from doing things that I really shouldn’t have been doing. When I came up out of the waters, all those things that I had done had been washed away. I just felt like I was starting anew, and to have Trey be the one that baptized me was special for me. Now I live a pure life and don’t do those things you shouldn’t be doing.”
In attendance for McCann’s baptism was a good friend of his by the name of K.V. Hazlett. Hazlett is another Abilene teammate and plays wide receiver.
“The next Monday during our workouts he told everyone about the baptism,” said McCann. “After that everyone came up and asked me, ‘You let Trey baptize you? Why was he able to baptize you?’ and questions like that. I really didn’t expect anyone to come up to ask me questions about the Church. People have now come up to me and asked me why I don’t drink and why I don’t do bad things anymore. It’s been a great thing to have that happen, and I didn’t expect anyone to find out. It was crazy because I had people asking me questions after that.”
With his newfound faith, McCann’s life has changed. He has a new understanding of life and a new purpose.
“I'm happier now and I'm closer to my Heavenly Father,” he said. “I pray every day and don’t ask for things for me but for other people because I like to put things right by putting everyone else first. Without Him we wouldn’t be here, but with Him everything is possible.”
The experience of baptizing his friend and fellow teammate has strengthened Dye’s own faith.
“It just really strengthened my testimony and …” Dye said, pausing for a moment to find the right words, “… it made me feel like there was a greater purpose to things. It made me feel like I was doing the right things right now. It made me feel good about praying every morning. It made me feel good about going to seminary every morning. It made me feel good about reading the scriptures and going to church. It made me feel good about being an example no matter what to those around me.”
And Dye’s teammates have taken notice of his example. Just recently, he was one of the select individuals on the 89-player football roster at Abilene to be selected as a team captain.
“I was voted as one among the four selected to lead the team and be an example to the younger players and the freshman players looking up to the varsity players,” said Dye.
And to Dye’s surprise, many of those young freshman football players have come to him inquiring more about his LDS faith. It appears the cycle of positive influence has filtered on down and is continuing.
“I talk to guys every single day now,” said an excited Dye. “I have freshmen coming up to me saying, ‘Trey, you’re Mormon?’ I say, ‘Yeah, I am,’ and they say, ‘That’s really cool, and I’ve heard a lot about your Church.’ I tell them if they’re interested to come to church with me. Just the fact that I can lead by example has really done some great things for those who really haven’t had much of a good example in the home or off the field. I feel like with me having the position that I have and being a member of the Church has really begun to shape a lot of young men’s lives coming up. It really is something great to be a part of.”
And being a part of something great and exemplifying it is something that McCann understands he must now do. He has joined Dye in being a flag-bearer and example to others.
“I believe the Church is true,” he said. “Some people will look down on us and some people don’t understand what we believe in, but when they talk to me about it I just tell them that it’s Christianity. It’s not that much different, but we are to live a higher standard now knowing what we know. It really is a great thing and a blessing to share your feelings about the Church so they can know about the Church and how to return home to their Heavenly Father.”
How many lives can be truly be affected by the example of one.