Success can be so fleeting in football. One week you're the star of the team, and the next week you're being bashed on social media.

 

After that victory over ECU, we went on the road to Kentucky, where I went 15-30 for 177 yards. It wasn't a horrible performance, but we lost 17-10. We then lost the next game against Texas A&M, when I was 9-15 for 34 yards in the first three quarters. By the end of that game, I was sitting on the bench, where I would remain for the next six games. In that stretch I threw all of one pass, and although I got to come off the bench and throw 11 passes in the regular season finale against Clemson, that was because we were already losing 42-0. We ended up walking away from that game on the wrong end of a 56-7 blowout.

 

As it turned out, that was the last time I ever got to wear a South Carolina uniform. Or, at least, the last time I would wear a Gamecocks’ football jersey.

 

Even if things weren't going to go well on the football field, I knew that I had a backup plan as a baseball player at South Carolina. I love the game of baseball, and my combination of power and speed lends itself to the diamond.

 

I turned my efforts and focus to baseball, but in the first few weeks of the 2017 season I couldn't get on the field. USC has a tremendous baseball program, but not being able to play at all was a huge disappointment. As a true freshman, the demands of football in the fall and my commitment to being a scholar-athlete in the classroom did not leave much time to focus on preparing for baseball, and to a certain extent, did not leave the needed time for my relationship with God.

 

God seemed to be testing my resolve. Or maybe my faith. Either way, I knew I had to pass the test.

 

Fortunately, I had plenty of support to help me get through that time. I had my uncle, who is a pastor in South Carolina, and my grandmother, whose husband was also a pastor back in the Palmetto State. All my thoughts and prayers led me to one conclusion about everything: there is a plan here. God has planned for me to be here, and even if I don't understand what it is, there is a purpose to the journey that led me to Columbia. My time at South Carolina was invaluable to my faith in God. Through prayers, God revealed that he wanted me to learn valuable lessons about life and trust in Him.

 

I had no idea where to go, but my mom gave me the best advice I've ever received in my life. Be a light to show people everything that God has given you, she told me, and when you're looking for this, find a place where you think you're going to be able to do that.

 

The next chapter to apply my learnings would not be at South Carolina but across the country at Cal.

 

The Golden Bears’ coaching staff made that decision much easier for me. Cal was the first program to text asking for me to call them after I had decided to transfer, and that resonated with me. It's a young staff, and everybody is hungry to win. So am I.

 
 

(Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics)

I also realized that the light my mom was talking about can shine in more ways than one. My parents once told me that in order for people to hear your voice, you've got to get the credentials for them to believe you. Fortunately, in my major of political science, Cal has the top-ranked department of any public school in the country. It's actually ranked higher than Yale and MIT.

 

The school's legacy of quarterbacks is nearly as impressive, and it's something I'm hoping to become a part of. Kyle Boller. Jared Goff. Oh yeah, and Aaron Rodgers.

 

Aaron is the quarterback I've studied for as long as I can remember. He is somebody that can do so many different amazing things as a quarterback and he devoted his life to playing the position. He shows what can happen when somebody buys into the game, and puts everything they have into doing things the right way.

 

When I was in high school, somebody told me that when Aaron Rodgers was at Cal, he was never late for a meeting or practice or anything, and that continued when he was on the Packers. It's a standard I hoped to live up to when I signed my transfer to play here.

 

I just had no idea how excruciating the wait would be to get my chance.

Page 1   Page 3

Thomas Hager