Spectacular barely begins to describe BYU’s victory over Wyoming last week. The offense put up highlight reel play after highlight reel play; the defense pitched a shutout for over three quarters; and the special teams dazzled with two brilliant returns. For wide receiver McKay Jacobson, however, none of the excitement could match the thrill of opening a big white envelope from just miles north on I-15.
“I was hoping I was going to get it last Wednesday, but I got my call on game day last Thursday,” said Jacobson of the letter from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that would tell him where he would be serving for two years as an LDS missionary. “I was very excited about that and the envelope was there right as I left for the stadium. I wasn’t home and my dad let me know that it had come in, but I had already left for the stadium.”
“I can remember leading up to that Thursday we were asking him about it all the time,” said BYU quarterback John Beck. “The week before he got it we kept saying, ‘Oh you’re going to get it today, you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it.’ Before the game McKay knew he was going to have his mission call, and we were kind of teasing him saying, ‘Don’t think about your call just think about this game,’ which he did.”
Following a spectacular win over Wyoming that guaranteed BYU a share in the Mountain West Conference title, Jacobson finally got the chance to make a special announcement in the locker room to his teammates.
“After the game, McKay stood up in front of the team and said, ‘Hey, I’m getting my call, and anybody who wants to can come over to my house,’” said Beck. “So we all went over to his house, and he had his family there along with some of his friends on the team. He had the papers in his hand and he opened them up.”
“I was really excited to get home and open it up,” said Jacobson. “I got home and my parents were here for the game so they were there, which worked out really well, and I had some relatives there, and I invited my teammates to come over if they wanted to. I had quite a few relatives that I wasn’t expecting to be there. I was a little nervous but excited and anxious to open it.”
With family, friends, and teammates all gathered around, Jacobson finally opened up the envelope and read the letter aloud.
“When he opened up his call, he was just all smiles,” said Beck with a smile of his own. “He started reading it and you could tell that the kid had waited since he was born to learn where he would be going on his mission, and when he read his mission call, his eyes lit up, and his parents were so excited.
“He actually read the entire letter before he stopped. Most people will read their call and stop when they learn where they’re going and then stand up and get all excited and say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ But McKay read every single word and didn’t stop until he read ‘Signed Gordon B. Hinckley.’”
As soon as Jacobson read the last word in his call and had accepted the congratulations and hugs of his friends and family, he got online and started researching the Japan Sapporo Mission , where he would be spending the next few years of his life. Sapporo is the fifth largest city in Japan with 1.7 million people. It is the capital of Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan, which has a population of 5.7 million. Hokkaido is known for its snowy winters and sub-zero temperatures.
“I was just like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable!’ Jacobson said. “This was the last place I expected to go. I was really excited, and my parents were really excited, and it’s kind of crazy because it’s coming up here really soon so I want to finish up the season really strong.”
During the weeks before Jacobson received his mission call, many of his teammates made their predictions of where he would serve. The guesses were all over the map, but one was right on.
After learning he would be serving in Japan, Jacobson called fellow teammate Chris Warner who also served a mission to Japan to let him know that what he had told him weeks before actually came true.
“You know it was kind of funny because Chris Warner went to Japan and he said to me, ‘Hey you’re going to Japan,’ before I got my mission call,” said Jacobson. “He was just telling me that because he went there, and I just told him ‘No way.’,
“Chris wasn’t in the same mission but he was in Japan. I don’t know what mission he was in, but when I got my call I called him and told him that I was going to Japan. He was like, ‘No way! Man, that’s really awesome!’ He was really excited for me. It was really fun and I was excited. I told him that when I see him everyday for him to teach me a new word in Japanese. He said he would do that so I guess he’ll be talking to me in Japanese a little bit. He said they have their little word characters and they have two different writings, or a way to write something two different ways. That’s something I’m going to be learning more about here soon.”
Less than a month after BYU plays in its bowl game, Jacobson will hang up his cleats and football helmet enter the Missionary Training Center where he spend two months learning how to be a missionary picking up as much Japanese as he can.
“I enter the MTC on January 17th,” said Jacobson. “It’s coming up here really soon. I know it’s going to go by really fast. I was talking to my dad about learning stuff before I left, but I really just think I’ll learn the most when I’m in Japan . I can do what I can now by maybe learning some numbers or what the vowels are and some basic stuff. I’m not too worried. I know it will probably be a little tough, but I’m not too worried about that.”
As the excitement and joy of the night ended, McKay’s father spoke to those who where there in attendance. He relayed a heartfelt story about a father’s honor and love for his son.
“One of the coolest things of the night occurred when McKay’s dad [Evan Jacobson] stood up and said he remembered when McKay was a young man playing in a football game,” said Beck. “He said he had caught, I think, four touchdowns and set a record, but later that night he was going to be ordained a Priest. His dad stood up and said that he was so proud that his son got four touchdowns, but the one thing that he was most proud of was that he could ordain his son to be a Priest and that his son was worthy of that calling.”
Evan then connected that experience from his McKay’s high school days to the experience of that evening. Evan explained that on night when McKay had a scintillating return to score BYU’s first touchdown off of a punt return in nine year, nothing could compare to the way he felt when his son opened his mission call.
“He said he was so proud of McKay by how he lived his life that he could receive a mission call,” said Beck. “It was just an awesome experience for the whole family.”
Beck believed that McKay felt the same way about the relative significance of the events of the evening.
”If you ask McKay he would probably tell you that the highlight of that night would have been opening up his mission call,” said Beck. “He had the first punt return since 1997, but if you were to ask him what was the highlight of that night, I’m sure he would tell you it was opening up his mission call. I’m sure that when McKay thinks back on that Thursday night the only thing that will come to his mind will be getting that mission call.
”The cool thing about this was, you could tell this really meant a lot to McKay to have his mission call. You could see that this was something that just wasn’t, ‘Well, I’m LDS, and I’m going to go on a mission.’ You could tell this was something that really meant a lot to him, to have his call. You could tell this was something that he has worked for ever since he was a little kid reading his scriptures, saying his prayers, going to church and all that had lead up to this one specific moment in his life.”
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