The only reason I found myself in the theater that night was because my life was at a crossroads.

After playing football at a small high school, where it was hard to get noticed, I knew I was going to have to earn a college scholarship the hard way. I was going to walk onto the football team at Colorado State University.

It was a strange quest for me, because ever since I was six years old I had grown up as a fan of CSU's archrival, the University of Colorado. I remember watching games at Folsom Field with my Mom and Dad, and I will never forget when the Buffaloes beat the No. 2 team in the country, Nebraska, 62-36 in 2001. I was especially a fan of Daniel Graham, their tight end who became an All-American.

Unfortunately, Daniel and I did not share a similar path....he was a tight end and I was a linebacker. He was also blessed with an extraordinary amount of natural talent and I was not. Colorado wasn't interested in having me play football, so I decided to pack my bags and head up north to Fort Collins.

Wearing the green and gold for CSU was a bit of an adjustment, but earning playing time helps with that process. I made some big tackles as a freshman, and I thought I was on the path to stardom as a sophomore.

I could not have been more wrong.

The 2011 season ended up being the last year for my coach, Steve Fairchild, and the new coaching staff didn't see a role for me. If I had been on scholarship, they would have still had to pay for my education, even if I wasn't on the team. But since I was a walk-on player, they had no consequences of letting me go, and just like that my career as a Ram was done.

The only difference was that I wasn't ready for my own career to be over, and I decided to try and follow my childhood dream of donning the black and gold Buffaloes jersey. I wanted to run out of that tunnel at Folsom Field, with our mascot Ralphie leading the way, in front of 53,000 fans.

In the summer of 2012, however, all I had was a dream. I had no scholarship, no money, and no roster spot waiting for me. So my friends decided to help cheer me up one day by taking me to the movies.

I remember I considered skipping work that day, because I knew they might be waiting for me. My job was at the hospital in Castle Rock, a city about halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs. It's a bit of a drive to the Denver suburb of Aurora, but my friends really wanted me to go, so I made the choice of just getting work done as quick as possible. But before I could watch the movie I was going to do one of the most dirtiest jobs people can think of – hospital cleaner.

It wasn't the blood that disgusted me as much as the toilets, but this was the life of someone chasing their football dream. I didn't have a football scholarship, and this my way of paying for tuition. The only thing that was maybe more unpleasant than the job itself was my attitude...I remember being down on myself, thinking I had gone from a Division 1 football player to toilet cleaner.

I didn't know it at the time, but if God hadn't directed my path to that job, cleaning toilets, I might not be here to tell this story. It's a story that needs to be told, but not all of it is pleasant to tell. Especially what happened when we walked into that theater.

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Thomas Hager1 Comment