For nearly two years, Sam Bennion dedicated his life to his religion.
Throughout it all, Bennion was itching to get back on the football field.
"Football for me has always been kind of a drug," he said. "It's just something I love so much. I've been kind of sad not being able to play and compete. I've been kind of anxious to start again."
On Tuesday, Bennion will finally arrive at the University of Colorado, just in time for spring football.
A graduate of Logan (Utah) High School, Bennion was originally a part of CU's 2014 recruiting class, but he immediately left high school for a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving in Concepcion, Chile.
As much as he missed football, Bennion, 20, would not change that decision.
"I am very glad I did that because I was able to mature physically, mentally, socially and emotionally," said Bennion, who returned home a week before Christmas. "In all aspects, I was able to become a better person and more responsible. I was able to solidify my standards and become, by far, a man, more than anything.
"You just have to keep your priorities straight and it's amazing what you can accomplish."
A second-team all-state defensive end in high school, the 6-foot-5 Bennion was about 240 pounds when he played at Logan. He said he lost about 20 pounds between his senior season and the time he left on his mission, but "I stayed at about 220 pounds throughout my entire mission."
Despite being in a foreign country, Bennion said the food was not too exotic.
There was one time, he said, where, "I think I might have eaten some kind of animal stomach," but otherwise he said it was basically a lot of chicken and rice.
As far as football goes, an LDS mission does not provide enough time for athletes to practice their sport, but Bennion did as much as he could.
Missionaries are given about 30 minutes each morning for exercise. He would sometimes wake up early and, he said, extend that time by doing some work on his stances. He also played soccer with locals every now and then, but those games were not competitive.
"I kind of had to tone it down a little bit," he said.
While on his mission, Bennion never wavered in his desire to become a Buff.
"I feel like it's something I really should do and its something I need to do," he said of coming to CU. "I just have this excitement that's stayed with me all throughout those two years."
After arriving in Boulder, Bennion said he's eager to meet defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who was hired midway through Bennion's mission, and start the process of figuring out how he fits on this team.
More than anything, though, he's excited to get on the field.
"I feel like I still need to shake out the rust in the pads and the cobwebs and the dust that's accumulated over two years," he said. "I'm not entirely sure how long it will take to get back in football shape. With the new equipment they've been able to acquire and all the new upgrades and the new renovations, I feel like I'll be able to make a lot of progression in my training.
"It's a little bit too early to tell what expectations I will have in this upcoming season. I'm not exactly sure what to expect."
He just knows Boulder is where he belongs.
"It's going to be great," he said.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.