(Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics)

When the NCAA said I couldn't play, I stood on the sidelines the next day with my teammates, encouraging them and doing whatever I could to help out. Unfortunately, with the exception of the crosstown trip at Stanford, that North Carolina game was the only road game I got to attend.

 

NCAA rules said I couldn't travel with the team, which meant I had to watch the games on television at my house. If there was a time when it really hits you that you're not playing football, it's watching the teammates you practice with playing on TV.

 

The anxiety was so bad that I would often have to do something else when I was watching it or I had to look away. But all that did was make me hungrier to thrive this season.

 

That year off also gave me time to develop my faith, which will only make me a better quarterback. I've studied the book Isaiah, which has plenty of lessons on leadership. Isaiah 40:31 says “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.” To me, that means showing my team to keep believing we can win. No matter what the situation, no matter what the odds, anything is possible.

 

The Bible doesn't just make me a better quarterback, it makes me a more compassionate teammate. Forgiveness is a huge theme of the Bible, and it has helped me cope much better with dropped passes by my teammates, and even taught me how to forgive myself after a bad throw. Rather than dwelling on the negative, I'm only focusing on the next play, regardless of what happened before.

 

That theme applies to our entire team. Yes, we were 5-7 last year, and we were 5-7 the year before that, but I'm not focusing on what happened before. I'm focusing on what is going to happen next.

 
 

And considering how long it's been since I last ran out of a tunnel, with all the fans waiting for us, I have a feeling I'll enjoy that first game back a little more.

 

Cal fans, I can't wait to see you guys on September 1. Go Bears!

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Thomas Hager2 Comments