(Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

If someone were to ever ask me what was the best game I ever played, it would be that night.

We were facing a really good Charlotte Latin High School team, and even though I didn’t put up the biggest numbers of my career, it was about as close to a perfect game as I think I've ever gotten. By the time the final seconds ticked off, our team had won 31-13.

Normally this would be a cause for celebration, but that just wasn't the case. I just wasn't in the mood to celebrate when I was still grieving the loss of my brother. In fact, it would take me a little while before things started to feel normal again.

But one thing that did help me was my faith.

My brother and I both came across the Bible verse Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, and it spoke to both of us. I shared it with my mom, and my brother even got a tattoo of it.

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

There's not a right or wrong way to grieve the loss of someone...it's okay to be sad, but it's also okay to also smile again. Everything will happen in its due time. In my case, one thing that helped brighten my spirits came that following summer, before my junior year started.

Wake Forest was offering me a scholarship to play football.

I wasn't highly recruited at that point, but Wake Forest saw something in me that other schools didn't. When somebody puts their trust in you like that, it means a lot, and I decided to commit to WFU before ever playing another down. It didn't matter that they were coming off a pair of 3-9 seasons...this was the place I wanted to be.

I didn't know it at that point, but that loyalty was actually about to be put to the test. And looking back, the WFU coaching staff passed with flying colors.


(Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

Just a few weeks after I signed my letter of intent, I could tell that something was feeling off with my left shoulder, and eventually that pain made its way to my neck. The swelling in my throat got so bad that I couldn't eat. By the time doctors diagnosed I had a thyroid issue and performed surgery, I had lost 24 pounds. I didn't look or feel like the quarterback Wake Forest had signed.

And yet the staff at WFU checked in on me all the time. They never once wavered on their commitment to me, and that has never been lost on me to this day.

I was able to put up big numbers as a junior, but I wasn't heading anywhere besides Winston-Salem. Now all I needed was to finish out my senior year before I could step foot on the WFU campus.

Ironically enough, even though I knew where I was playing as a college freshman, I didn't have a team for my senior year in high school.

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Thomas Hager