(Photo courtesy of South Carolina Athletics)

I didn't need to step on the sidelines at Williams-Brice Stadium to learn about perseverance. That had been ingrained into the Holtz family since Day 1.

I was born in the aftermath of the Great Depression, in 1937, in Follansbee, West Virginia. Times were tough for everyone, but they might have even been tougher for the people in the Mountain State. In fact, it's almost always been that way for the people of West Virginia.


(Even as 7-year-old in West Virginia I already loved football)

Life was tough for a lot of people in Appalachia, and my family was no exception. My dad only had a third-grade education, and our entire family lived in a one bedroom cellar. We didn’t have a tub or shower, but my parents gave me something greater than money could ever buy. They introduced me to God. And I can safely say that God is the reason for every good thing that has happened to me.

Not only did it open the door for eternity with Jesus, but it also gave me a great outlook on my trials in life. Romans 5: 3-5 says "We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance builds character; and through character, hope."

Believing in God doesn't take away your adversities; He just allows you to tackle them in a positive way.

I took that attitude with me when I found out my wife had throat cancer in 1997. She was given a 10 percent chance of living, and instead of turning our backs on God, we turned that suffering into hope. Her faith is strong today, and even after our house burned down two years ago, she decided to build the new home around her prayer room. She still prays for me to this day, and even though she now has to occasionally eat out of a feeding tube, our faith is stronger than ever.

My wife was one of the people who thought it would be good for me to get back into coaching. I retired as the head coach of Notre Dame in 1996, and so for two years I had been away from the sidelines. At first look the South Carolina job might have looked daunting, because they were coming off such a bad season, but I wanted to come in and help turn the program around. After all, South Carolina was the program who took a chance on a 29-year-old Lou Holtz. They saw something in me before I ever won a National Title with Notre Dame.

Unfortunately, back when I was an assistant coach with the Gamecocks in 1966, our team only won 1 game. And when I came back, it appeared like we were starting from the same spot. Not only was the program coming off a 1-10 season, but we only had three healthy offensive linemen on scholarship. And we only had one healthy quarterback on scholarship.

The key, however, was that we became a united group. And when your players believe in themselves and each other, anything is possible.

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Thomas Hager