(Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans)

As I started to mature in my life, I began to realize there were small issues in life that we make into bigger ones. I like to call them first-world problems.

Not getting offered a scholarship by Maryland? I still had a chance to play football somewhere else.

Not cracking the starting lineup at WVU right away? I was still a Mountaineer.

Not winning a National Title? I was still a three-time Bowl Champion.

I had plenty of blessings to count on, and I really had no reason to complain. In the grand picture of life, most of those problems were pretty trivial.

Getting somebody pregnant is not of one of those little issues. This was a huge deal, especially when I wasn't making money as a student-athlete.

When you find out that you are going to be a dad, there's a lot of options that people consider. Some people choose to abort that little baby. Some choose to not be involved in their kids' life. Some run away from the problem.

Or you can make, as my dad called it, a man's decision.

Before I became a dad, I knew the choice I was making nine months earlier. I knew how to become a dad and how not to become a dad. And once I made the choice that led to becoming a dad, I had to man up and do the right thing.

 
 

(My two boys to my left and right, with my daughter in my arms, as I was honored at Milan Puskar Stadium)

Our baby boy wasn't a problem that I was supposed to fix. He was a blessing from God, and I was going to take care of him as an NFL player. No matter how far down the draft I fell.

As expected, the first round came and went. Then the second round. That was the first year that the NFL put the first two rounds on one day, so in order to hear my name called I would have to wait overnight. Then through the first 25 picks of round three, I still hadn't heard my name. That's when I finally heard that the Texans were taking me with their third pick.

There to celebrate with me was not just my mom and dad, but my girlfriend and son as well.

I've been blessed that every perceived negative in my life turned into a positive, and my late draft selection was no different. I arrived in Houston without any pressure, and despite an 0-4 start, I wasn't taking a ton of blame for it. Then I started to find my footing, as did our team. We won 8 of our last 12 games to finish the year 8-8, which at that point was tied for the best season in Texans history.

I rushed 1,282 yards that season, the most of any rookie running back. I had grown up wanting to be just like Emmitt Smith, and now I was living out that dream. In fact, with the ESPN Monday night crew in town for our December game against the Jaguars, I had the second-best game of my career and got to meet Emmitt after the game. Life was great.

As it turned out, I had more yards my first season than the rest of my career put together. But as God was always showing me, these first-world problems kept setting me up for something better in life.


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Thomas Hager