(Photo courtesy Ohio University)

One of the best moments of my Bobcats career came before I ever threw my first pass.

Our season opener last year was a night game, and I'll never forget that feeling of running out of the tunnel for the first time. Ohio Stadium isn't huge, but when it's filled with a lot of fans it becomes an awesome environment. Running out of that tunnel was the culmination of all my years of hard work and perseverance, and that was the moment when it really sank in that I had achieved my dream.

The game was the icing on top the cake, and we beat Howard 59-0. Our team didn't quite put up the video game numbers like we did in Alabama, but we showed a trait my high school team rarely needed: resiliency.

We lost our next game at Purdue, only to bounce back and beat Kansas - a power-5 conference team - the next week 42-30. Our following game might have been the most exciting of the entire season....we were playing Eastern Michigan on the road, and the game went into overtime. EMU started off OT with a touchdown, meaning we needed to score a touchdown of our own just to send the game to double overtime.

I remember watching on 2nd & Goal as my teammate Brendan Cope broke free on a slant route, and just as he crossed the goal line I fired it right to him. Tie game.

We got the ball to start the second overtime, and this time it was my teammate Cameron Odom who broke free in the back of the end zone for the score. When our defense stopped Eastern Michigan on fourth down, we were all of a sudden 3-1 on the season.

By the time we beat UAB 41-6 in our bowl game, we had finished the season with a 9-4 record.

I can't take too much credit, because our team is coached by a legend in Frank Solich and the program hasn't had a losing season in a decade. But to be a part of a winning season like that at this level was really special.

I also tried not to make any of the games last year about me. I ended up facing some of the old teams who just like Ohio had passed on me earlier, but football is a team sport. If I would have made the focus on me, or played with some chip on my shoulder, it would have gotten in the way of our team's goal.

The struggle might be over, but I'll never forget who brought me out of it. I wear a wristband with the Isaiah 40:31 verse everywhere I go, and continue to pray before each game. God is the only reason I am here now, and I never plan on forgetting that.

I don't know if I will make it to the NFL or not, or what the future might hold, but after everything I've been through, I'm ready for whatever challenge is next.

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Thomas HagerComment