As I was making my way out to Iowa, I honestly didn't know if I was going to get there on time.

One of my good friends, Gary Gjerstad, was dying of cancer.

When I got to his room, he was still alive, and I'll never forget his positive spirit that day. We were all there to say our goodbyes and pray for his soul, and instead of focusing on himself, he wanted to pray for me and my family. This man was preparing to die, and he wanted to pray for me to find another job and for my 16-year-old son to have a great football game that Friday.

I remember asking Gary, how are you doing this right now?

His response is something I'll never forget.

“Are you kidding me?” Gary said. “This body is worn out, I'm fixing to get a brand new body.” Then Gary, who was blind his whole life, told me he was going to see for the first time. “The first thing I get to see is Jesus Christ,” he told me. “There's nothing to worry about here.”

As I left the hospital that day, I knew he was right. Gary would actually get to live for almost another month before he passed away on September 22, but I can tell you that whenever I would spend time with him, I could just feel God speaking through him.


Gary was the only non-football speaker I had talk to our team, but I was able to develop a relationship with another fan, Jacob, who used to come out to our practices. After I was let go I found out Jacob had stage 4 colon cancer, and we developed this incredible relationship. He went through four or five rounds of chemo, and the prognosis was that he wasn’t going to make it. Well he’s now made this miraculous turnaround not just in his health, but with his faith. During his recovery I got to witness and see him start his relationship with Christ.

Those two guys were prayer warriors with me, and they showed me that life is simple...God put us on this Earth because He wants us to love Him and serve Him with all our heart. Being a coach is all about that - loving your players and teaching them about life through football. I still hope to coach again someday, but if it hadn't been for one special player and his dad, I don't know if I would still have any desire to coach today. It was a third of the way through my first year as a head coach, and I really didn't know if I ever wanted to coach again.

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Thomas Hager