(Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)

I never thought I would go through that many injuries in just two years.

When I got to USC, my main concern was just getting big. I still remember when I was doing workouts with the other receivers, I noticed I was smaller than almost everybody. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steven Mitchell, Issac Whitney...I just starting going down the line. I don't look like him. I don't look like him either. And I definitely don't look like him.

They were all swole with rock-hard bodies, and here I was. I had the worst combination possible, because I was skinny but had a little belly at the same time. I thought to myself I have no idea how I'm going to fit into this group for playing time.

The thing was, I was fast.

But here's the thing about being fast...it's only effective when you're healthy. And for my first two years at USC, that was almost never the case.

The injuries my freshman year were tough, but I could accept waiting a season to get some playing time. That was the case with plenty of guys, especially at a school like USC.

It was really my sophomore year when things started to go downhill. Not only was I getting hurt, it was happening consistently. I remember I started to ask...why is this happening to me?

Every Christian has to battle thoughts like that, but that actually wasn't the worst thought that came into my mind. The worst thought was when I projected my thoughts onto others.

Why can't this happen to somebody else?

I kept that thought to myself, but I had just gotten to the point where I was exhausted. I was tired of missing the field and tired of my body hurting all the time.

I relied on my faith, because I knew that God had a plan for everything that was going on. Every injury and every setback had some purpose in God's plan. I also relied on my family, because it was around that time my dad decided to show me some tough love.

"You have one more week to be hurt," he told me. "And then you're not hurt no more."

For those who don't remember watching him on tv, my dad is Michael Pittman, Sr. He played for 11 seasons in the NFL and rushed for 5,627 yards in his career. Those numbers don't even include the 124 yards he rushed for in Super Bowl XXXVII, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Raiders 48-21.

I never felt the need to compete with my dad or have a better career than him, but I knew that I had a younger brother who was looking up to me, to see how I would handle everything. And somehow, when my dad told me I had only one week left to be hurt, it somehow worked.

(Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)

When I stepped back on the field, I started performing.

I had one catch against Utah, then two catches against Arizona State. I then added three catches against Arizona and four against Colorado, and when our team was playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game, I had 7 catches for 146 yards.

More importantly, our team beat Stanford that night 31-28. Things were finally turning a corner.

Or so I had thought.

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Thomas Hager