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By virtue of both his own inclinations, and circumstance, Mountain View College sophomore Daniel Francis has taken a decisively different life’s path than most of his peers. But according to Francis, 22, the path less traveled has served him well.
A native of Lancaster, Francis was home schooled and completed the equivalent of high school by the tender age of 14. At age 17, Francis received an associate degree through concurrent enrollment at Mountain View and Cedar Valley colleges. Standing 6-feet, nine inches, Francis also contributed moderately as a member of the Mountain View men’s basketball team.
Shortly thereafter, Francis made the life-changing decision to embark upon a two-year mission to Spokane, Washington, on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. For two years, seven days a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Francis knocked on doors and witnessed to anyone who took time to listen. The middle child in a family with three brothers and three sisters, he also had to adjust quickly to life away from his family and friends. Francis adjusted, however, and now reflects fondly upon his missionary endeavors.
“It was wonderful,” Francis said. “It was an amazing experience to see how much impact our message had, and to meet so many interesting people. Religion is such a deeply personal topic, and to talk to so many people in that way was rewarding, and very educational.”
Francis anticipated the next question: What about people who rejected his message or refused to talk?
“Rejection was sort of difficult at first,” he admitted. “But it’s not really personal because it’s not about ‘me.’ It’s about the message. I just love people for who they are and understand that everybody has a choice. Personally, though, I know the whole experience made me a better, more mature person.”
Following his missionary work, Francis opted to return to Mountain View College to pursue an eventual career in aerospace engineering. He enrolled in the Aviation program at Mountain View, and also went back out for the basketball team under head coach LeRoi Phillips.
“Daniel told me he might be going on a mission, and he was concerned about leaving the team,” Phillips recalled. “I told him that basketball would still be here when he got back, and that we would have a spot waiting for him.”
Much to the delight of Phillips, Francis did return as much more than a moderate contributor. Despite two years of relative inactivity on the court, he had still managed to blossom into a much better player. The physical nature of the game, and the aggressive mentality that a six-foot, nine-inch center has to maintain to play effectively at the college level, were challenges that Francis was more capable of meeting after his two-year journey from one door to the next. Infused with a new sense of confidence and a greater willingness to compete, he became a shot-blocking weapon and a source of inspiration to his teammates during the 2007-2008 season.
“I think I became a smarter, more aggressive player,” Francis said. “Being one of the oldest players on the team, I also took on more of a leadership role. I also know Coach Phillips expected that of me.”
Francis is currently pondering his options at four-year institutions. Perhaps not surprisingly, he says he would love to play basketball at Brigham Young University. He is also currently considering offers from the basketball programs at the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Texas at Tyler.
With his exceptional height, a maturity level beyond his years, and a grade point average of 3.8, doors are opening these days without Francis even having to knock.
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