(Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)

For the first half of last season, I just couldn't find my rhythm...through the first five games of the season I had caught just 11 passes.

Maybe I hadn't turned the corner after all.

But I think that's just the devil trying to plant that doubt in my mind...I feel like of all the tools satan has at his disposal, doubt is his most potent. Once doubt starts to set in, it opens the door for everything else to come in. Hatred. Jealousy. Selfishness. All of that stems from doubt. Doubt of my own abilities, or doubt that who I am isn’t good enough.

I could have fallen into another dark place, but I had some incredible people who kept me from going down that path.

First there was my girlfriend. She has been with me for nearly six years, and loved me long before I ever stepped foot on USC. Plus, we have a rule that we never compare each other to other guys/girls...she's doesn't need to change anything about who she is, and she makes me feel the same. Regardless of whether I'm scoring touchdowns or not.

She also goes to church with me, and helps keep my identity in Christ, not in football. It's easy to try and wrap up your identity as a football player at USC, but there's more to me than that.

I'm also lucky enough to have teammates who feel the same way. On gameday, after we watch a hype video to pump us up, and after I listen to some songs by the Christian band Casting Crowns to put me in a good place, we say a prayer in the locker room as a team. Then we'll go back out on the field and take a knee to say another prayer, just to make sure we represent Christ in the way we play and the way we treat our opponent.

That support system kept my head in the right place, and I started to play like I had never played before. I had 155 yards against Colorado, then 107 against Utah, 90 against Arizona State, 106 against UCLA, and 91 against Notre Dame. I had barely touched the ball the first half of the season, and now I was actually helping our team.

The only problem was that we lost four of our last five games to finish the season with a 5-7 record. We're used to double-digit win seasons here, and to finish with a losing record is almost unheard of. But just as those teammates helped me out, I'm helping my teammates out in return.

First, I made sure to keep encouraging my quarterback, J.T. Daniels, who faced more attention and pressure than anyone his age. He finished high school an entire year early so he could play quarterback here, which meant he was facing redshirt-seniors four or five years older than him last season.

I was frustrated early in the year, because I wasn't getting the amount of looks I had hoped, but I knew that I had to look at things from J.T.'s point of view. He should have been in high school, and yet here he was, learning an entire new playbook and trying to face defenses that were coming after him.

And since I enrolled at USC a semester early, I actually see a lot of myself in him. Plus, by the end of the season we showed what it can look like when we get on the same page. The good news is that we have another year to show to what we can do together, because I decided to come back for my senior year.

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Thomas Hager