(Photo courtesy of Hawaii Athletics)

The Hawaiian Islands formed long ago as the result of volcanoes erupting underneath the ocean, but you don’t actually think a big eruption is going to occur when you live here.

Volcanic eruptions aren’t a big headline - there’s even a National Park on the Big Island that allows people to experience the volcanoes up close. What isn’t normal, however, is what happened last May, when nearly 700 homes were destroyed and 2,000 people were evacuated.

The eruptions were devastating for the residents, and just when it seemed like people were putting their lives back together, Hurricane Lane hit.

I wasn’t on the island when the hurricane made landfall, because our team left for its season opener a few days earlier than scheduled. And from the safety of our hotel in Fort Collins, Colorado, we watched in horror as the tropical storm turned into a Category 5 hurricane.

The islands were spared the worst of the storm, but we saw the images as landslides and floods caused $250 million worth of damage. One man also tragically lost his life.

We were more than 3,000 miles away from home, but we knew we needed to do something. So our athletic department came up with the coolest helmet design I’ve ever seen: the map of our state would go on the left side of our helmet.

Hawaii Helmet.png

(Image courtesy of Hawaii Athletics)

So when Gregg Tipton asked me “Are you ready champ?” it didn’t feel like I was just answering for myself. I was there to represent the whole state of Hawaii.

The funny thing was when Hurricane Lane was just forming a few hundred miles away from our shores, I still didn’t know if I would even be the starter. I had sat the previous season behind our quarterback Dru Brown, who had thrown for 37 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions over the previous two years. Sitting behind Dru was a challenge for me, because it tested my humility and whether I could be happy for somebody else’s success.

If I’m being honest, some days were easier than others, but during the 2017 season God made me a better teammate. And Dru made it easier on me by being a disciple of Christ himself.

So with all the chaos going on back home and all the uncertainty weighing on me if I would even play, I just trusted in God that everything would turn out okay. Coach Rolovich gave me the nod a few days before the opener and with the knowledge that this was bigger than just a football game, I put on that helmet and ran out of that tunnel.

What happened next was a dream come true.

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Thomas Hager