(Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics)

Football wasn't always easy for me, but I can say that becoming a Christian definitely was.

My family instilled those values from a young age, and for as long as I can remember I've known the importance of having Christ in my life. My faith has always been the biggest thing in my life, and even after I began to excel at football, those priorities never changed. 

But it wasn't just important for me to have faith, it was important to me to share that gift with others as well. The thing was, if I wanted to share my faith with others, I had to set an example. The Bible talks about the importance of hard work, and if I was ever going to have a chance of getting a football scholarship, I was going to have to live that out. 

In the book of Matthew, Jesus shares the parable about the three servants who are given talents (which were coins back then). One servant was given three talents and used that to make three more. Another servant was given two talents and used those to make two more. But the third servant did nothing with his coin and buried it in the ground. 

I knew God gave me all this potential to be a great football player, and He wanted me to make the most of it. It didn't matter whether I was given two or three talents, metaphorically, I was going to make the most of the gifts God gave me.

(Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics)

When I was working out at 5 a.m. with my trainer coach Anthony Brown, I knew I was representing God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says "Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God" so that's how I approached each footwork drill or technique assignment.

But even with hard work, sometimes you need a few people in your corner to help you out, and for me that came in the form of coach Brown. I signed up to play 7-on-7 football after my sophomore year, and coach Brown was my coach for that, too. But as much as he helped me during our workouts, his biggest help was in being my hype man for those camps. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the recruiting circuit, a bunch of college recruiters show up to those camps, but they really only have a few names they're really looking at in terms of handing out scholarships. And considering at that point there were still some jv games where I didn't even get on the field, I can promise you I wasn't on anybody's radar. 

Coach Brown and another one of my coaches, Armond Hawkins, made sure to take care of that problem.

Whenever I made a play during the camps, they would yell my name loud enough that the recruiters could hear it too. If nobody was going to offer me, they were at least going to know my name by the time camp was over. Okay, so maybe it was an unconventional way of getting a scholarship, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And it worked! Cal Poly offered me after one of those camps, but I was still a long way from being offered by my dream school, which was Cal.

And to get that offer, it required some extra creativity.

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Thomas Hager