Let me give you an example of the kind of man Taylor Kelly was. When the players would go to a bar, Taylor would order a water and encourage the other guys to make good decisions. If my standard was to hold players to their best, Taylor was the epitome of someone giving it their all. Not only was he great on the field, he became a 4.0 student off the field.

I've never seen a guy elevate the other 10 teammates like Taylor, but it wasn't just the 10 guys on the field. I would walk into the locker room, and Taylor was there talking to a backup walk-on freshman.

Here's the thing about Taylor: he wasn't the most talented quarterback I've ever coached. In fact, he wasn't even the most talented quarterback on our team. That would be Mike Bercovici.

In some aspects, as much as Taylor helped change the culture as ASU, Mike had just as big of a role. In the spring of 2012, as we were preparing for my first season, Mike was the starting quarterback. During the entire summer leading up to fall camp, he was projected to be the guy getting the playing time and attention.

Within four days Taylor just took over. And Mike supported him. It would have been so easy for Mike to hate Taylor or hate me, but this was the example of a guy living out what you want to see from a Christian athlete. Both Taylor and Mike were believers, and instead of hating each other, they became friends.

Taylor was phenomenal...in 2012 and 2013, he passed for nearly 6,700 yards and 47 touchdowns. Then in 2014, three games into the season, he breaks his foot. Now all of a sudden it's Mike's turn, and he's also incredible. And just as I knew he would be, Taylor was happy for him.

In Mike's first game as a starter, he threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns against UCLA. Then in the next week, against USC, he threw the most famous pass in ASU history.

Throughout the game against USC, I still remember hearing Mike and Taylor on the sidelines saying we're going to win this game. Some way, somehow, we're going to win. I thought we had a chance until USC scored a 53-yard touchdown on us to go up by two scores. Now it's like there's no way. There's only 3 minutes left and we need to score twice. Well Mike throws a 73-yard touchdown pass on the very next play, and after USC goes three-and-out, we had a chance. We were down 34-32 with just 17 seconds to play, but we had a chance.

Mike completes a seam pattern down the field and all of a sudden we're at USC's 46-yard line with six seconds to go. The Trojans thought we were going to kick a field goal, but our kicker wasn't on the trip with us for that game, so we had to throw it. We designed this play where all of our receivers run down the right side of the field, and Mike throws the ball to everyone's left. At first glance it might have looked like his throw was off course, but it was designed that way. Sure enough, the play unfolds just like we planned and at the last second Jaelen Strong cuts over and catches the ball.

We had stunned USC 38-34, and Mike's and Taylor's words had become true. It was the most exhilarating play I've ever been a part of, and I still have the game ball in my house to this day.

Here's where things got interesting...just like that, after two games, everyone thought we were going to make Mike the starting quarterback. After all, he just threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions against the Trojans.

But when I named Taylor the starting quarterback, Mike supported it. There was even talk of him transferring after the season, but Mike refused to leave the program. Then as a senior, after basically waiting three full seasons and a redshirt year for his turn, Mike throws for over 3,800 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Those two were living proof of so many things we tried to teach in our Bible study. Patience. Selflessness. Perseverance.

Guys like Mike and Taylor are why I love being a football coach.


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Thomas Hager