(Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University)

One of the coolest parts about being a head coach is getting to pick your staff. You know what you want to achieve as a program, and you know who the people are that can get you there. I love having my dad work here with us at FAU.

For those of you who don't know, Monte Kiffin is one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time. Remember those Tampa Bay Buccaneers defenses that were so dominant in the late '90s and early 2000's? He was the Defensive Coordinator.

We started the year 1-3, but I knew our players and coaches were capable of turning our season around. We won our next three games to get back above .500, and it was during our next game that I could see we had turned the corner as a program.

We played up at Western Kentucky, which had been a perennial power in our conference, and had beaten our team up pretty good over the years. When FAU played them the year before I got here, they had beaten us 52-3. Plus, this game was in late October, so it was starting to get cold, and there was this reputation that Florida kids can't play in bad conditions. And for the first three quarters of that game, it looked like we might lose again.

We were down 28-20 going into the fourth quarter, and then our players just took things to another level. We scored the last 22 points to win 42-28, and never looked back the rest of the year. We then won the next six games, including our 50-3 win in our bowl game, to end the season on a 10-game winning streak. Second longest in the country.

My time in Boca Raton has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My journey has humbled me, and as a result I'm not this larger than life figure anymore that people made me out to be. I’m no better than anyone else, and have finally figured out why He put me through what He did. I wasn’t using my platform for Him, so He took it away.

The athletes at FAU might not be five-star recruits, but they are five-star people. They listen better than any other players I've had before, probably because their approach to life is completely different. With some kids in the past, they have been told their whole life that they're going to the NFL, and they think it's going to solve every problem...if I make it to the NFL I can buy people these things, and buy this house and this car.

Here's the problem: none of that stuff is really ours. We’re really just renting it. Everything we own really belongs to God, we are just renting it, and when we die those things are going to become somebody else's possessions. And none of that stuff matters. When people ask me what makes me happy now, the answer is totally different than before. I'm happiest when I'm helping people.

Let me tell you what happiness looks like for me...it's when you spend time with a kid who is on the brink of quitting the team because he thinks he can't take it anymore. You know that a life of selling drugs is awaiting him back in his hometown, and you convince him to stay and get his degree.

I don't like to focus too much on my past, because then it stops becoming your past and starts to become your present. However, my story is a special exception, because it shows people that it's never too late to rediscover God, and that we can overcome anything in our past. I like to tell people these days, if God can forgive you for whatever you have done, then why can’t you! I’m proof.


(Photo courtesy Florida Atlantic University)

Thomas Hager15 Comments