By the time I ever got to throw a pass in college, I had already come to terms with the fact that I might not ever play in a football game again.

 

It was a thought that would have never crossed my mind coming out of high school, but five years of not stepping into a live game will do that to you.

 

When I took the field on October 7 of 2017, I had only thrown two live passes since my senior year of high school. But I wasn't just entering any typical game. I was going to begin my college career by facing Baker Mayfield and the undefeated Oklahoma Sooners.

 

Needless to say, people didn't give me or my Iowa State teammates much of a chance, listing us as 31-point underdogs.

 

But if people knew how much I had gone through to get there, perhaps they might have reconsidered.

 

Looking back now, it's amazing how close I was to never playing in that game. How close I was to giving up on the sport. To giving up on myself. To giving up on my dreams. But God has never given up on any of us, so why should I start the idea of quitting with my own career?

 

Now that I've passed the test, though, I can tell you that I seriously considered turning my back on the game. On multiple occasions. At multiple schools. Before I could throw my first pass as an Iowa State Cyclone, God had to make me earn it first.

 
 

(Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletics)

My first college stop, at Oregon State, lasted all of three practices. In reality I was there for over two years, but in practical terms, my career at OSU was three days.

 

I got there in 2013 and sat out the season as a redshirt. The next year, with a full season of learning the playbook under my belt, it seemed like I had at least an opportunity to compete for playing time. I did not. I was not even close to being a backup, much less starting.

 

We had seven quarterbacks on the depth chart, but really only six of us were actually quarterbacks, and there I sat at No. 6. The backup to the fifth-string quarterback. Even though my name was technically on the roster, I actually played with the scout team.

 

I developed a friendship with Marcus McMaryion, who was battling for the starting spot, but the situation was unhealthy for just about all of us. I look back and I'm a much better teammate now than I was then, but all six of us developed a bizarre kinship in Corvallis, if for no other reason than we all recognized we were in a messed up situation.

 

That fall was brutal, as we went 2-7 in the Pac-12, and by the next spring things would change dramatically. Our head coach would take the job at Nebraska, and soon after the new coaching staff arrived, reality began to sink in. Three practices into that spring, they told me that I wasn't going to play there. As in, I was never going to play there.

 

They couldn't take away my scholarship, but the message was loud and clear: if I was ever going to play football again, I wasn't going to be wearing an orange and black uniform. So in March of 2015 I decided to transfer, but I didn't head to another Pac-12 school, or even another Division I program.

 

I was heading to Junior College.

 

Believe it or not, I couldn't find any playing time there either. I was playing football in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, but I was no closer to realizing my dream. It was now the fall of 2015, and despite demoting myself to the Juco level I found myself on the practice squad yet again.

 

It was at that time I began to seriously consider abandoning my football dreams. The thing is, God has a plan for your life way beyond what you could have ever dreamed.

 

In order to get there, however, you often have to survive the toughest test of your life.

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Thomas HagerComment