By Utah National Parks Council
Sep 26, 2013

BYU’s Spencer Hadley Learns to Do Hard Things

Spencer Hadley is an Eagle Scout. He did all the things that are expected of a young man active in the LDS Church – Scouting, Eagle Award and mission. He is intelligent, has a high GPA, plays football for BYU and is very popular. It seems on the surface that he had everything.

But in a Sport Illustrated article, Hadley’s mistake of breaking the BYU Honor Code and being suspended made national headlines. His partying in Las Vegas, and subsequent alcohol drinking, led to his suspension. He had to face public backlash at his actions; actions that are okay for other young 23 year olds from other schools but were not okay for his standards.

I am sure it was humiliating for him, his team, and his family. I am confident that he felt great despair and wanted to run and hide from his actions but there was nowhere to run.

It took great courage, faith and even more humility to get on a bus with his teammates and go to the prison to do service, not knowing beforehand what the outcome was going to be.

Scouting teaches boys how to do hard things. Scouting is not just about the 50 mile hike, the copes course, the physical challenges. Scouting teaches character. The Scout Oath of doing your best to God and country, to help others, to keep yourself mentally awake, and morally straight is a challenge.

Scouting is about putting others before yourself. The 50 mile hike teaches a Scout to look out for others who are struggling, to lift them up, and encourage them to continue no matter how difficult the path. It is about everyone in a Troop and letting everyone know that they are a valuable member of the Troop.

It is about helping others to succeed before you worry about your own success. Because when you do your best for others, you do your best for yourself.

Hadley’s example of facing his actions is probably one of the hardest things he has had to do. We all make mistakes. There does not have to be despair when we do so. We are not worthless because of our mistakes.

My son texted me yesterday from college because he is struggling with a couple of classes. He wanted to quit and felt like he was incapable of succeeding. I told him that he has to stop looking at challenges as failure but as a problem and start looking for a solution.

As Hadley showed, when you confront your mistakes, when you express humility and repentance the Lord can take those negative experiences and turn them around for your good. Hadley has been able to inspire others to be better than they were. He has shown that you can move forward from mistakes, and your life can be enriched.

Hadley is an example of a Scout who has learned to do hard things.

If you have not read the Sports Illustrated article it is below.

SI Article:

One by one, BYU football players — dressed in blue and white team gear —  filed onto a bus outside the Holiday Inn Express in Orem, Utah, last Friday  night. It was just after 6 on the eve of the Cougars’ annual grudge match  against Utah, but instead of watching film or making last-minute preparations,  the team was headed to the Promontory Correction Facility in nearby Draper to  speak to inmates in the prison’s Substance Abuse Treatment Program.

Spencer Hadley

With everyone aboard, a team official scanned his clipboard and gave the  driver the go signal. But just before the door closed, a burly 6-foot-1,  227-pound linebacker wearing a backward baseball cap and dark sweatsuit got on  board, ducked into an empty seat up front, put his elbows on his knees and  buried his face in his hands.

As the bus pulled away, BYU players were shocked to see Spencer Hadley.  Earlier in the week Hadley had been suspended from the team for five games for  violating BYU’s honor code after an email alleging Hadley had been partying in  Las Vegas was sent by a Utah fan to the University of Utah and was forwarded to  BYU (a photo of Hadley in Las Vegas later surfaced and went viral). Cougars  coach Bronco Mendenhall didn’t address the specifics of the suspension, but the  fact that it was Holy War week between BYU and Utah only magnified the situation  in the local media.

Hadley’s problems started when a Utah fan going by the name Darren Lucy sent  an email to Utes associate athletic director for compliance Kate Charipar. “I am  a die hard Utah Utes fan and have pictures of BYU Linebacker Spencer Hadley  partying frequently in Las Vegas,” Lucy wrote. “We have pictures as recent as  last night of Hadley in Vegas with BYU booster Jacob Stocking.” The email  alleged everything from Hadley taking trips on Stocking’s private jet to  accepting cash loans and using Stocking’s vehicles. ( was unable to locate  Lucy.)

Hadley later denied receiving extra benefits, but he admitted to partying in  Vegas and drinking alcohol, which even though he’s 23 is a violation of BYU’s  honor code and got him suspended. As he rode with his teammates to the prison,  Hadley was too emotional to think about football and felt he let his team — and  himself — down. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around the team,” Hadley said. “I  felt the shame of what had happened.”

But a BYU assistant coach kept encouraging Hadley to join the team on the  trip to the prison. Hadley decided to drive to the Holiday Inn, but even when he  pulled into the hotel parking lot he was having second thoughts. So he texted  his coach. “You should get on the bus,” the coach texted back.

It wasn’t until Hadley was inside the prison with his teammates that he knew  he had done the right thing. Roughly 100 inmates in green and white jumpsuits  sat in chairs in a small gymnasium. The team filed into three rows of chairs  that were behind a lectern facing the inmates. Prison officials occupied the  front row and armed guards were stationed around the room.

Hadley listened as two of his teammates addressed the audience, then a group  of BYU players sang a Christian hymn. Coach Mendenhall then delivered the  keynote address and took questions from the inmates. The last inmate to raise  his hand told Mendenhall that they’d all be tuning into the game the following  night. Mendenhall thanked them and turned to sit down.

Before he reached his seat an inmate in the back shouted: “Put Hadley in.”

The room went dead quiet. Mendenhall pivoted and looked at Hadley, who met  his gaze.

“Do you want to say something?” Mendenhall mouthed.

“Do you want me to?” Hadley mouthed back.

Mendenhall nodded. Hadley stood and joined his head coach in front of the  lectern.

“Spencer has made some mistakes recently,” Mendenhall said. “He’s going  through a tough time. I’m not going to say anything more. I’ll let him tell you  the rest.”

Alone, Hadley folded his arms across his chest, hunched his shoulders and  lowered his head. Every inmate’s eyes were locked in on Hadley. After a long  silence, he cleared his throat and shared a scripture about vile sinners that  had been forgiven by Christ. “I’ve done some things that have embarrassed my  family, my teammates, my school and even my church,” he said. “But I believe in  redemption.”

Many inmates nodded.

“I know who I am,” Hadley continued. “I know who you are. We’re all children  of a Heavenly Father. All of us in this room have made mistakes. Not one of us  qualifies as being the vilest of sinners. Yet having made mistakes I know that  we can change and we can come back and right the wrongs that we’ve done.”

As he spoke, most of the hardened inmates wiped tears from their eyes. During  their incarceration they had heard their share of speeches from outside  visitors. But on this September night a suspended college football player had  reached them and touched their hearts.

One inmate rose to his feet and started clapping. A second inmate joined him.  A third stood up. Soon every inmate was on his feet, shouting and clapping.

Mendenhall stood and wrapped his arms around Hadley, who buried his face in  his coach’s shoulder and wept like a baby. “I’m proud of you,” Mendenhall  whispered. “The first step on the road to redemption is to use our mistakes to  bless others. And that’s what you did tonight.”

By this point even the prison officials and armed guards were wiping tears  from their eyes. Chants of “BYU! BYU! BYU!” echoed off the prison’s concrete  walls. It was louder than the roar inside the stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

As Hadley exited the prison, the wife of one of the prison’s senior officials  pulled him aside. “You gave these men a gift today,” she said. Then her voice  trailed off and she broke down.


Spencer Hadley grew up on a dairy farm in eastern Washington. One of eight  children, he spent his childhood working alongside his father, Alan, who had  1,500 head of cattle. At an early age Spencer learned to bottle feed 200 calves  a day. As a teenager he branded and dehorned cows, castrated calves and mended  fences.

“I loved doing that stuff,” Hadley said. “There was something honest about  coming home tired, dirty and sweaty.”

The only thing Hadley enjoyed more than working on the family ranch was  football. An Eagle Scout with a 3.95 GPA, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and  Stanford heavily recruited him to play football. But from the time Hadley was a  little boy, he dreamt of playing for BYU. As a devoted Mormon, nothing, he  figured, would make his dad more proud. So the minute Mendenhall offered him a  scholarship Hadley committed to the Cougars.

After his freshman season, Hadley left on a two-year mission in Sacramento.  He spent much of his time trying to lift and encourage people who were  struggling with guilt brought on by personal failings and human error. “We are  all our own worst critics,” Hadley said. “As a missionary I constantly told  people there is nothing we can do that isn’t redeemable. You’re never too far  gone. There is no single mistake that can’t be overcome through the Savior. You  always have a fighting chance.”

After his mission, Hadley returned to the team in 2011 and won a starting  position as a linebacker. Last season he recorded 55 tackles, and this fall he  teamed with All-America Kyle Van Noy to form one of the nation’s top linebacking  corps. BYU started the season 1-1 and Hadley was the heart and soul of the  Cougars’ defense before the report of him partying in Las Vegas surfaced.

In his first three seasons, BYU had never beaten Utah, and there was nothing  Hadley wanted more than to beat the Cougars’ archrival as a senior. That dream  was dashed with his suspension.

Jeff Benedict is co-author (along with Armen Keteyian) of a new book on  college football, The System. Purchase a copy here.

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Author: Heidi Sanders | Marketing & PR Director, Utah National Parks Council


See Jeff Benedict, “BYU’s Spencer Hadley opens up on incident that got him suspended,” Sports Illustrated (Wed., September 25, 2013).

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