(Photo courtesy of CU Athletics)

In the eight years before I showed up on campus, the Buffaloes had recorded losing seasons in all of them. Things didn't immediately turn around when I got there either, as we finished 2-10 my freshman year and then 4-9 my sophomore season. In both years were last in the Pac-12 South, making it seven straight years in which we finished either last or second to last in our division. I was tired of losing. All of us were.

This wasn't what any of us wanted when we signed our letters of intent. Colorado has historically been a great football school, with great tradition, and down the line the program had gotten off course. We all knew the journey we were undertaking when we decided to wear that black and gold jersey, and just because things weren't going according to plan, that didn't mean we were going to give up now.

The reason I stayed is the same reason I chose Colorado in the first place. I wanted to be able to bring greatness back to our state. I wanted to be able to help rebuild a program that once was great and put them back on top. I wanted people to be proud of me, a Colorado native who decided to stay through the hard times and the good times. That's what character is, that's what life is about.

As my junior season began, things started to turn around. We won our first two games of the season, and even though we lost our next game at Michigan, we bounced right back in the loudest road atmosphere I've ever been a part of. We were facing an Oregon team that had been in the national championship conversation for several years in a row, but going into the fourth quarter we only trailed 38-33. The biggest win of the season was within reach, and all those years of fighting through adversity were about to finally pay off. My teammate Bryce Bobo caught a one-handed touchdown pass to give us a 41-33 win, and now at 3-1 we were really on a roll.

With all the momentum on our side, we won six of our next seven games to give us a chance at winning the Pac-12 South. From the outside, everything looked like it was going our way, and life was starting to appear easy.

Little did people know just how difficult that season was for me.

My mother, was has been there with me through all of the ups and downs of my life, was hurting 24 hours a day.

She suffers from a muscular disease, and during that season it was taking a toll on her. She gets these calcium deposits in her nerves, and in order for her to move she has to break them. My mother continued to fight through the pain, but as the disease continued to progress she couldn't move her feet at all. She spent three months in the hospital, and because she got an infection in her foot, she nearly had to get it amputated. Whatever toughness God required from me to get through my knee injury, my mom showed twice as much strength and courage as me.

One Bible verse that applied to our situation is Jeremiah 29:11, which says “ 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' ”

When I read that verse, it's saying God already has a plan mapped out for us individually - it's a plan for us that at the beginning is going to be rough, but it's a plan for us to grow to understand each other, to understand life in general. It's not to harm you, it’s not to hurt you, but to build you up, to make you become a warrior.

That's exactly what my Mom is.

I dedicated that whole season to her, but the doctor ordered her not to come to my games because it was too dangerous. Any athlete can tell you that playing without your parents in attendance is really hard. Whenever I scored a touchdown, I knew she was watching on tv, but I couldn't look up in the stands and see her smile. But for the last home game of my career - with a chance to reach the Pac-12 Championship game - she broke the doctor’s orders.

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Thomas Hager