When I arrived at Hutchinson College in the summer of 2015, I'll never forget what I saw when I worked out with the team for the first time. Some of my teammates were legitimate Division I players, who were either awaiting their chance at the D1 level or hoping to earn a second chance after academic issues. For other teammates, and this is no knock on them, they honestly did not look like they should be playing football.

 

Within a few months, I was beginning to think the same thing about myself.

 

I definitely had the size at 6-5, but when you are on the practice squad at the junior college level, it makes you question what you are doing with your career.

 

It wasn't supposed to be that way. I didn't realize when I transferred to Hutchinson that I was going to be stuck at the bottom of the depth chart. I don't like to make excuses – I had a chance to earn the starting position – but for one reason or another I didn't play.

 

After that 2015 season I decided to transfer again, and by this point my college career was beginning to look like my childhood. I lived in five different states growing up, and I changed elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Now I was getting ready to attend my third different college in three years.

 

I want to mention that my struggles are relative. I've had teammates who have dealt with real issues, and if this is the hardest thing I've gone through, than I've had a pretty blessed life. But for someone who loves the game of football as much as I do, I can tell you that my collegiate journey wasn't easy on me.

 

The funny thing is, even though I wanted to transfer, there was no film of me. That's right – I had been in college at that point for three years, and my latest game film was of me scrambling from 17-year-old linebackers.

 

I considered transferring to Iowa State, but before I made a decision I needed to pray on it. There were multiple times where I talked to God – is this really the right thing? I stayed unwavering on my commitment to football, and I think God had a big part in that.  I don't know why I love football so much, but I'm glad he gave me that desire, because had it been some other goal, I might have quit long before I got to Ames.

 

But even after I made the choice to come here, that devotion was tested one final time.

 

My career at Iowa State started just like my other two stops: on the practice squad. The only difference this time around was that I wasn't even on scholarship, and in the spring of 2016 it was actually my parents who had encouraged me to transfer. They were paying for my tuition at an out-of-state cost, and in total fairness to them I hadn't given them much of a reason to think my time on the practice squad was going to turn into a scholarship.

 

This time, however, I was staying. I wanted to see this through.

 

My parents believed in my dream, and without knowing what the next season held in store they decided to support me. They are also Christian and raised me in a religious household, so perhaps even if they didn't know if I would ever play, they believed God had a plan for me.

 

That fall I played on the practice squad for the fourth consecutive year, but in the 2017 season, my dreams came true. I made the team as the backup quarterback.

 

As for the dream of ever seeing the field, that one looked like it wasn't coming true. Man was I ever wrong.

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Thomas HagerComment