(Photo courtesy of Terrell Lloyd/San Jose State Athletics)

As hard as the recruiting process had been, the process of finding my college was actually incredibly easy.

San Jose State, who I had been following the entire time, suddenly had an opening for me. One of their quarterback recruits decommitted, while another couldn't come, and just like that I was suddenly a Spartan.

The only thing was that I was a preferred walk-on, meaning that I had a roster spot but no scholarship. Even though I didn't play my first season, I was thankful to be on the team. I made sure to take mental reps at practice, envisioning that would be me someday. And if I could actually earn playing time, maybe the scholarship would take care of itself. Through all of this, I had a chip on my shoulder to prove all coaches wrong, even the ones I had at San Jose.

Then it happened.

 
 

When my coach called my name to look at the scoreboard, I saw the giant word "SCHOLARSHIP" flash on the screen. I barely had time to read it before my teammates mobbed me.

Hard work and perseverance really do pay off.

The crazy thing was that within a few weeks of that moment, I was actually getting on the field. We were playing at home against Utah when our starting quarterback got hurt near the end of the third quarter. I was only in the game for a handful of drives, but in the limited time I saw, I threw for 184 yards. My coach then told me that in our next game, in front of 60,000 people at Iowa State, I would be the starting quarterback for the San Jose State Spartans.

I wish I could say that the rest is history, but that wouldn't be the case. I remember my first touchdown pass against the Cyclones was called back because of a penalty, and on the very next throw I threw my first interception. Of four. But it was a learning experience, and I approached the 2017 season hungry to earn the starting job and keep it.

The ironic part was that within a few months, none of that stuff seemed to matter. I didn't really care anymore if I started at SJSU, and I couldn't concentrate on my academics either. I was about to go through something that put life in perspective really quick. Although I had been a Christian most of life, I had never needed Him like I would over the next few months.

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Thomas Hager