(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Athletics)

After I resigned, I tried to make up for lost time. It seemed like I hadn't truly rested in years, and my body needed to recuperate. I took some time off, walked on the beach in Florida, wrote a book and used the proceeds to help my cancer and epilepsy foundations.

I took the 2015 season off from coaching and spent a year at Kansas State as an associate AD working with coach Bill Snyder. I learned more in that year under Bill than any time in my career. The man’s a genius and I’m so thankful for my time at K-State.

After that, I was contacted by Chris Ash at Rutgers and he offered me the offensive coordinator job. I was hesitant to take it, but I wanted to see if I could do it as an assistant coach. Rutgers is a hard job and I thought my background would be helpful for Chris. It didn’t work out. I got sideswiped and hit the back of my head on the sidelines during the sixth game of the season. The seizures returned and I was slowly losing my short-term memory. When you have three experts telling you to stop coaching, while you have a granddaughter on the way, and your wife is telling you that you need to be done, it was time. I said I would, but not until we finished the season. We actually won four Big Ten games, and I can say my career ended where football was invented.

Now, I’m back at Southern Illinois, working as the special assistant to the chancellor and as the director of athletics. It’s different than coaching. I brought in some great people and we had some great people here already. I don’t work until midnight and I take Sundays off, but I’m still able to get the job done.

 
 

(At my new office, with a plaque to live by - “Chase Your Dreams”)

When people ask me about my faith, I tell them I’ve been blessed with a great life. I accomplished a lot for having grown up in a town of 2,000 people and going to a small school in Cheney, Kansas and Southwestern College. God has a plan fo you. You don’t know when your card is going to come up. There’s no do-overs in life and you don’t know when it will come to an end. Make sure you live it.

When I think of God, I think about that story of the two footprints in the sand. During the best times in the man's life, he saw four footprints - two for him and two for God. But when times got tough, he only saw two. When he looked back and saw just two footprints during those times, he wondered why God had abandoned him…And that's when he realized that God didn't leave him during those times - he was carrying him. Each step of the way in my life, God has looked out for me. I don't know what the future holds, but when my card comes up, I hope the Big Man lets me in the pearly gates.

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Thomas HagerComment