By Sam Finley, EDN
Hamani Stevens has heard it all about the Mormon faith. The young Oregon offensive lineman from Hemet, California wasted no time explaining certain stereotypes that have been applied to his religious beliefs.
“The usual misconception about Mormonism is that we all believe in polygamy and stuff like that,” claimed the 6’3, 305 pound redshirt freshman. “However, most of us don’t have 10 wives or practice any weird off-the-wall kind of things. People may think that, but we’re regular people that go to church on Sundays, focus on families, and are here to serve one another.”
Part of that service took him away from football for a short period. After utilizing his redshirt in 2008, Stevens spent the next two years on his Mormon mission in the Philippines.
“There was a lot of knocking on doors and sharing of my beliefs,” said Stevens about his time abroad. “It was a great experience, and it tests you physically, mentally, and spiritually. I wouldn’t say it was an easy two years because it was very difficult at times, but it made me stronger and it built up my faith.”
Hamani did confess that, as rewarding as his mission was, he did miss a certain game.
“There is no doubt that I missed football,” he admitted. “I thought about it all the time when I was out there. It wasn’t too much of a distraction, since I served outside of the states and they don’t follow the sport as much in the Philippines. But I still missed it a lot.”
What he didn’t expect, after returning to Eugene this year, was how difficult it would be to get back into footbal shape.
“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” laughed Stevens about getting back into the typical football rigors. “I thought I’d just come back, pick it up, and just start going with it. But I had to pick up all the stuff on offense such as all the plays and get back into hitting every single day. I also had to get used to running, and putting the pads back on.”
Although Hamani Stevens is not quite where the Ducks would like him yet, his efforts have not gone unnoticed by his teammates or his coaches.
“Hamani did a good job this offseason,” said senior offensive lineman Mark Asper. “He got after it in the weight room, and he is one of the strongest guys on the offensive line. If he continues to learn the playbook and really focuses, then he can work himself into a steady part of the rotation this year and he’ll definitely be a major contributor next season.”
“He’s progressed quite a bit in the past several weeks,” explained offensive line coach Steve Greatwood. “I was able to get him in the Nevada game last Saturday, and he’s getting his fundamentals back. He’s seeing more things, and I’m pleased with his progression so far.”
As Greatwood mentioned, Stevens finally got some playing time during the Nevada game and relished the opportunity.
“It was great to make my debut,” he claimed. “It was the first time I actually played as an Oregon Duck. You know, you sit on the sidelines, and it is entirely different from actually getting into the game. It’s just so overwhelming and exciting, and you just want to go out there do your best. It’s just amazing.”
With the Mormon mission now behind him, Hamani has a different mission he’d like to accomplish.
“I’m just trying to get back into normal life,” he said. “The mission life is quite different than everyday life, because you have to wake up at certain times and talk to people. So right now, I’m just trying to get re-adapted.”
That normal life he seeks seems to be defined by taking it to the next level on the gridiron, as well as focusing on what needs to be done in the classroom.
“I haven’t declared my major yet,” he stated, but I’m thinking about doing journalism or something similar. So school and football are my main priorities at the moment.”