(Photo courtesy Washington Redskins)

When I arrived at Purdue as a freshman, putting this streak together was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, it wasn't until my sophomore year that I started to believe I could even make the NFL.

The streak is something I've taken great pride in, because I've always said my best ability is availability. If I can be there and be available to my teammates and the organization, than I'm doing something right and doing my job.

People might look at my life and career and think I've had it easy, but I've had adversity too. Just because I've played in all those games doesn't mean that I've been 100 percent healthy for all of them. For most of the 2013 season I was playing with a tear in the lateral meniscus of my left knee, and had to get arthroscopic surgery after the season. Then there was the injury on my left elbow after the 2016 season, which also required me to have surgery and withdraw from the Pro Bowl.

Surgery is a really trying time for anybody, and with it comes a lot of reflection. How will I react to this? Will I bounce back? Will I ever be the player I used to be? Rehab is taxing on you, both mentally and physically, but the adversity also helps put things in perspective...all the good things you've been given, and how fortunate you are to play the game. I've had those moments of being frustrated and down about what I was going through, but then it occurs to me - I'm lucky to be able to play in the first place, and I'm grateful for however many games God lets me continue to play.

That same approach applies when maybe our team isn't doing so well. I've experienced more losses than wins during both my college and NFL careers, but I just have to go back to that same mindset of gratitude. I get to play a game for a living, with thousands of people admiring what we do. No matter what the record looks like at the end of the season, I know I'm blessed.

Football has provided me a way to earn a living, but it's also given me something much more: life-long friends. When I was at Purdue, I lived in a house with six other guys. A bunch of us were football players and one of my roommates was our equipment manager, but we are still friends to this day. I can't imagine going through those four years without them, because they made it worthwhile and fun. I have no doubt God put them in my life.

But of all the gifts God has given me, I'm not sure if there has been a greater gift than meeting my wife. A few years ago my agency was putting together a charity function, and as soon as I met Jessica, I knew she was the one. We spoke throughout that night, and the rest is history. I got married to the woman of my dreams in March, so she is proof that dreams really do come true. Knowing your soulmate exists, and then getting to spend every day with her, is an indescribable feeling.

I think we're supposed to see God's love in everyone, but with my wife, I don't even have to try. And if I can give kids a similar feeling when I see them at the hospital, than I guess I've done my job too.

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Thomas Hager2 Comments