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Ben Cahoon

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Ben Cahoon is a slotback for the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes. He is the all-time leading non-import receiver and one of the most recognized names in the league. Ben is a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His fame and the admiration he has earned have helped to spread the gospel in Canada.

Though Ben's parents are Canadian (qualifying him as a non-imported player), he was born in Orem, Utah, while his parents were attending Brigham Young University. He lived the first few years of his life in Cardston, Alberta, which was an old Mormon town in southern Alberta. His ancestors and relatives have lived there for over 100 years.[1] Ben played football at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah, excelled at Rick's College in Idaho, and then played for BYU. He was part of the 1996 BYU team that earned a number 6 BCS ranking after beating Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. The following year, he earned academic all-American honors, led the team as a receiver, and was nationally recognized for his performance on the field.

Ben went undrafted in the American National Football League, but was the sixth overall pick by the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL draft. He and his wife Kim (oldest daughter of Utah governor Gary Herbert) and their oldest daughter moved to Montreal. Ben wasn't sure he'd stay on with the Alouettes, so he applied for graduate school at the University of Utah and at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in physical therapy. However, he finished his first year with the CFL with an excellent record, and his contract was extended. The family liked Montreal, and Ben decided to extend year by year. His contract has been renewed eleven times, as of 2009. The family, now comprised of Ben, Kim, and four daughters, lives during the football season in Montreal, and during the off-season in Utah.

While the game is mostly the same, there are some slight differences between the NFL and CFL that Cahoon says makes for a more exciting experience, and adapted to his skill set. At 5-foot-9, 184-pounds, Cahoon has flourished in a league that uses a longer, wider field than the NFL and makes teams reach the 10-yard first down marker in three downs, instead of four. He has caught nearly 1,000 passes for 12,586 yards.

"Because of (the rule differences), there's more wide-open passing than running," Cahoon said. "As a wide receiver, it makes it more fun. But it's still the same football: you've got to beat the guy covering you and get open, get the quarterback to find you."

The rules have made Cahoon a legend in the game. He was named the best Canadian player in 2002 and 2003, when he had a breakout year as well, catching a league-record 112 receptions for 1,561 yards and 13 touchdowns. He never drops a pass, which gave him the nickname "Velcro hands." He's been a model of consistency, going over the 1,000-yard receiving plateau in nine of his 12 seasons, all while juggling various church callings in the Kirkland Ward in Montreal.

Ben's faith has made him a target of Canadian football press coverage. Recently, the National Post published an article about how he hates playing on Sundays. The Calgary Herald printed a story about how religious CFL players keep the faith in a rough sport.

Ben served a mission for the Church in Philadelphi, Pennsylvania. He claims that serving a mission helped to transform his career. "I always felt it'd be hard to ask for divine help with football, if I hadn't served a mission. If I wasn't there when my Heavenly Father needed me, how could I ask Him for help when I needed Him? [2]

The 2009 CFL leader in receptions has also helped elevate the status of the youngling church in Quebec. One year, his coach asked him when the team should hold practices on Sundays so that Cahoon could attend his meetings. He says he's been proud to bring some visibility to the church in a Canadian province with 10,226 members out of a population of 7,598,000.

There was an article written in the Montreal Gazette about Cahoon during the early part of his career. It was a large, front-page article in the sports section that highlighted Cahoon and his faith. The paper was also doing a promotion at an Alouettes home game, so thousands of fans got to read about Mormonism while watching their favorite player in Molson Stadium. It was such a positive experience that the article was reprinted in the National Post, which goes out to the entire country.

"I've had missionaries tell me they've used my name in door approaches," Cahoon said. "They ask people if they watch football or know Ben Cahoon. They tell me it helps, and that's great to hear. Hopefully we've been able to show people that we're not weird, and we're just trying to be like everyone else: trying to win at daily life, working hard together as a family to be happy."[3]

Cahoon doesn't just lend his name to the missionaries, but he gives himself up to missionary work. According to Kim, he's held firesides in Montreal and all over Canada.

Ben partially attributes his ability to stay healthy in a punishing sport to living according to the Word of Wisdom, the health laws of the Mormon Church. Not only do these laws make for good health, but keeping the Word of Wisdom and other laws of the kingdom makes one worthy of the Lord's protection and help.


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References

  1. Mormon Times.com
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.

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