Mike Hague looked at himself in the mirror and hated what he saw. He climbed on a scale and thought Bib the Michelin Man had jumped aboard with him. In that moment a couple of years ago on the opening day of BYU’s fall football practice, a thought fired through his mind that once absolutely was unthinkable: Maybe I should quit.
"I looked ridiculous," he says. "I thought, ‘This is not me.’ I was big. I looked like a fat fullback. I was 5 foot 10 and weighed 235 pounds. I was like, ‘We weigh in today.’ I put on a heavy sweat suit and ran around the neighborhood just to see if maybe I could cut five pounds before I showed up. I didn’t like myself very much. I had a decision to make."
That was just one low ebb and one crossroad in a football career that has had more than its share of both. Enduring sprains, tears, wild weight gains, extreme weight losses, ruptures, scopes, season-ending surgeries and busted dreams is now Hague’s legacy. The fact that he’s still playing the game, entering a delayed and delayed-again senior season, is a testament to either resiliency or foolishness.
"I’m not sure which it is," the 25-year-old laughs.
But he is sure.
It’s his No. 1 takeaway from the past seven years.
"Nothing goes according to plan," he says. "Nothing. You’ve got to be ready for that."
Hague was supposed to be a college star. It was written in the stars. He was one of the best high school players ever to come out of the state of Utah. He rushed for 2,001 yards and 28 touchdowns during his senior season at Brighton High in 2006. He returned three kickoffs for scores. He also had 53 tackles and five interceptions, including one he returned for a TD.
When he chose BYU over Boise State, Oregon and Illinois, his future was 50 miles of open road. "I was going to come in, be an all-star running back at BYU and then …"
"It hasn’t happened that way," he says. "You take what you have and make the most out of it."
What Hague has done more than anything is survive.
His first season at BYU was promising. He played in all 13 games and had an 87-yard TD run against UNLV.
Then he went on an LDS Church mission to Tennessee, which he says is one of the best moves he ever made. It might have adversely affected his football only to the extent of the typical rustiness that plagues almost all returned missionaries, except that he gained a lot of weight. Over a two-year span of eating Southern-fried cooking — "Fried cornmeal … hmm … I don’t think there’s anything better than that," Hague says — he bloated up 40 pounds, which was a huge hurdle for a once-fleet-footed back.
That next season — 2009 — he promptly messed over his ankle in a game against Tulane, requiring a couple of inserted screws to hold together bones in his foot. His year was done, and he was awarded a redshirt season.
The following fall camp was when Hague saw himself for what he was — or what he wasn’t — in the mirror before reporting. He really wanted to just walk away. But he couldn’t. "Instead, I decided to change my life. I lost the weight," he says.
He did more than that. He became a dietary fanatic, transforming himself from a supersized fullback to an undersized one. He was too small to play the position, but he played it anyway, rotating with Zed Mendenhall.
In January 2011, Cougar assistant Nick Howell and Hague thought moving to defensive back was the answer for the incredible shrinking athlete. He was too small even for that by that time.
"I dropped 55 pounds," Hague says. "I had 2 percent body fat. I was gray in the face. I was sick. I had no energy. I’ve seen the dark side of eating too much and of eating nothing but lettuce and oatmeal."
It took an intervention on the part of his family, who told him, as he says it, "to start eating real food again, to stop being such a weirdo about it."
His diet had dwindled down to a cup of oatmeal in the morning, lettuce and broccoli for lunch, a minimal dinner and then consuming nothing from 5:30 p.m. until the next morning. "Overall, I looked good," he says. "I wanted to be a fitness model at one point. But I wasn’t healthy."Next Page >
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