Former BYU Cougar Mark Bellini – Book of Mormon Convert

Mark Joseph Bellini was born 19 January 1964 in San Leandro, California to parents Mike and Joy Bellini. He has a younger brother, Matt. He was an college football All-American player at Brigham Young University (BYU). He played wide receiver for the Cougars from 1982 through 1986. As a student at BYU he majored in Zoology.

Mark Joseph Bellini - BYU Cougar - MormonBellini has always been a sportsman. During his high school days he lettered twice in football, once in baseball, and once in basketball. He was an outstanding offensive back and defensive back, and was voted team MVP. He was also an all-conference running back and defensive back, and an all-county defensive back. He was named Italian athlete of the year in the San Leandro area.

He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 7th round (170th overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. He played two full Seasons of NFL Football with the Indianapolis Colts, from 1987 to 1988, as a wide receiver.

Bellini is also a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), having been born and raised Catholic. He earned a Master’s degree from BYU in Environmental Engineering. He lives in Midway, Utah and is a biologist and environmental consultant. He is currently self-employed and works out of his home on environmental impact projects. He is married with six children (5 daughters and a son who has Down Syndrome ) ranging from age 25 to age 9.

He says that he had wanted to play football since he was a small boy. Despite being told that he was too small and not fast enough, he never lost sight of his goal, and in 1982 his hard work and perseverance paid off when as a freshman, he became a walk-on at BYU and earned a spot on the varsity. He was in fact, one of only a few freshman to walk-on and travel with the varsity, and the only freshman to make the trip to Georgia. His playing time with the varsity was cut short when he was injured in a jayvee game.

During the 1983 season he was red-shirted. In 1984 he was worked into the receiving rotation and started the latter part of the season. He became the receiver of the week against Tulsa (6 catches for 141 yards), Air Force and UTEP (4 catches, 50 yards, 1 touchdown). He caught three passes for 48 yards in the Holiday Bowl vs. Michigan, and his total of 35 catches was one of the highest ever by a sophomore. He was also an All-American wide receiver on the 1984 national champion team.

In 1985, during his junior year at BYU, Bellini was named second team United Press All-American, third team Associated Press All-American, and first team All-WAC selection. He finished 10th nationally in receiving with an average of 5.7 catches per game, and was third in WAC scoring (7.6) and receiving.  He missed the New Mexico and UTEP games because of a shoulder separation. He caught 5 passes for 87 yards vs. Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl, and had 9 catches for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns vs. Temple.

Mark Bellini - BYU MormonBellini finished his career at BYU following the 1986 season with 146 receptions for 2,429 yards and 23 touchdowns, earning all kinds of individual honors and accolades in the process. (His little brother Matt Bellini followed in his footsteps to BYU to play football and later joined the LDS Church, as well.)

When he attended BYU he wasn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon), but one of the classes that he was required to take for graduation was a Book of Mormon class. The class ended becoming one of his favorites and he developed a warm friendship with his teacher, John P. Fugal, who would later baptize him.

“When I went to BYU, I wasn’t a Mormon,” Bellini said. “But while taking a Book of Mormon class, I had a good feeling about the book. A few months later, my teacher baptized me, and I’m very happy for that decision.” [1]

“Although parts of me fought it, in my heart I just knew it was true. I couldn’t deny it,” Bellini said. “The Book of Mormon became the foundation of my testimony.” [2]

Barely a month after BYU won the 1984 college football national championship, on a frigid February morning, Cougar wide receiver Mark Bellini and his old religion professor, John P. Fugal, had a chance encounter on campus as Bellini was hustling to class. Their encounter, as it turned out, occurred near an enormous banner that read, “BYU National Champions.” They both stopped momentarily to admire the sign and then the following conversation took place:

“You guys must be very proud of what you were able to accomplish,” Fugal said.

“Oh yes,” Bellini replied, “definitely.”

Fugal then uttered words the football player would never forget.

“He looked me in the eye and said, ‘I know something that will make you feel higher than that. When you are ready, give me a call,’” Bellini recently related, his voice choking up. “He was talking about me joining the church. Three weeks later I asked him to baptize me.” [2]

The baptismal service took place on 16 March 1985. It was a low-key event attended by several of his team members. Fugal performed the baptism and Mike Young, a quarterback and close friend, confirmed Bellini a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fugal said the service was both emotional and memorable.

The memories of his career as a Cougar are still meaningful, but more than 25 years later, Bellini is most grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the effect and impact that it has had on his life.

“The national championship was a highlight of my life. But such accomplishments are temporary and in time, no one remembers or cares,” Bellini said. “The gospel is truth, something that never fades.” [2]

“I’ve gone through periods where I’ve been close to the Spirit and others where I’ve been distant … I got to the point when I realized it wasn’t working for me on my own. I needed the blessings of God in my life,” Bellini said. “When you are engaged in seeking the Spirit and trying to follow the teachings of Christ, your life is truly blessed.”

“Live the teachings. It leads to happiness.” [2]

Additional Resources:

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Request a free copy of The Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ)

Mark Joseph Bellini – Mormon,org Profile

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