I'll never forget sitting there in the hotel lobby.

 

It was the day before the season opener last year, and I still didn't know if I was going to play in the game the next day. Or the entire season for that matter.

 

I had transferred from South Carolina to Cal three months before, and here I was, sitting with a panel from the NCAA in the team hotel. Most of my teammates were thinking about the game plan against North Carolina, but there I sat, making my best case as to why I should be eligible to play.

 

A few hours later, the NCAA had made its decision. I would be sitting out the entire 2017 football season.

 

Thank God I have my mom to keep my head on straight.

 

As the wait for my eligibility had lingered on, my dad and I couldn't help but get excited about the possibility of seeing the field that year. Most student-athletes have to wait a year under NCAA rules as they transfer, but I honestly thought I had a chance to play in 2017. I received a waiver to travel with the team for the North Carolina game, just in case the NCAA granted my wish.

 

But my wish wasn't God's, and as usual my mom was there to help me see the bigger purpose.

 

There's a reason you might not be able to play, my mom explained. I knew she was right. I could spend the entire school year strengthening my body, focusing on my academics, and preparing my faith for what could be an amazing 2018.

 

However, that doesn't mean I've forgotten about football. Because it's been a long time now since I've been in a game.

 

When I signed my letter of intent to play for the Gamecocks, I never thought I'd be in this position right now. I haven't thrown a pass in a game since 2016. I have a different perspective on the game now than the quarterback who cracked the starting lineup as a freshman at South Carolina.

 

When I got to USC, I was projected to be the next big star for their program. I was a four-star athlete coming out of high school, where I had thrown 54 touchdowns and ran for 70 more. People thought I was going to show up and lift the South Carolina program on my shoulders, and for a brief period of time it looked like they might be right.

 

I even started to believe it myself.

 

I saw my first action in the season-opener against Vanderbilt, and then the next game I came off the bench against Mississippi State and threw two touchdown passes. The next game against East Carolina would mark my first start in college.

 

I had a decent game, throwing for 195 yards and running for two touchdowns. More importantly we won the game 20-15, but that turned out to be my only win as a starter at South Carolina. After that moment, my career at USC began to unravel, not just on the gridiron, but on the diamond. I had come to Columbia with hopes of being a two-sport athlete, and it was starting to dawn on me that I might not get to play either.

 

But whatever problems we have in our life, God's solutions are always bigger.

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Thomas Hager