"God told me to send you this book...If you don't read this book, just read the first line."

Here I was, a few months into my new job at Florida Atlantic University, reading a note from our team chaplain at Tennessee, Roger Woods. Believe it or not, I'm actually still close friends with a lot of people at UT, so I felt compelled to open the book. It was called "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren, and on the first page were four words that changed my life.

"It's not about you."

That's all Rick Warren needed to say. It immediately sunk in, and I've been telling my players and coworkers that line ever since. I had never heard that before but that is the purpose of life.

I'll be the first one to say it: I had too much success, fame and money in life too soon. You see it all the time...in Hollywood, you see the musicians and actors that are given too much in life too soon and they're not fully prepared to handle that, and their ego destroyed them. I should know, because my experience was no different when I was coaching right down the road at USC.

I've learned now that ego is the enemy, thanks to the author Ryan Holiday sending me the book. I told him that this book is my life story early on! I had grown up in church at a young age, but by the time I was at USC I had strayed far away from it. For those of you who aren't familiar with my story, I was an assistant coach at 24 years old during those glory years at USC. When Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, and Matt Leinart were on the team, I was coaching 3 Heisman Trophy Winners and 2 National Champions. We won 34 straight games during one point, and then I was offered the head coaching job of the Oakland Raiders.

I was the youngest coach in modern NFL history. Like I said earlier, it was way too much, too early. Not from a football standpoint, from a life standpoint.

I was fired from that job midway through my second year, and a few months later I took the head coaching job at Tennessee. I was there for one year when all of a sudden the USC job came open. I could not say no, even though I loved Tennessee. All 3 of my kids had been born in California and I knew that I could win National Championships there, if we hadn’t got hit with sanctions.  

What it turned out to be, however, was the beginning of God humbling me to the man I am today. I was not using the platform He put me on at all in His way. As my pastor once said, God wasn’t punishing me, he was just giving me a wakeup call.

Page 2   Page 3   Page 4

Thomas Hager