Craig Mager was as shocked as anyone when he got a call from the San Diego Chargers on day two of the NFL draft. His friends and family had planned a draft party for Saturday, when rounds four through seven take place. His agent had talked to 16 teams, all gave his client a 5th round projection, so the Sager crew decided to take a trip to the bowling alley.
With his sisters and aunt in a separate car en route to the bowling alley, Mager got into his car. Then his phone rang. The San Diego Chargers were on the line. Mager hopped out of his car and raced into the house in time to watch a dream come true take place on television: his name being called during the NFL draft.
It’s been a rough journey for Mager. When he was fifteen years old and a freshman in high school, his mother died unexpectedly. Cathy Mager went to the hospital one day for treatment for a severe headache. She died after an accidental overdose of prescription medication.
Mager met his father for the very first time in his life at his mother’s wake. He and his three younger sisters went to live with their grandmother, who at the age of 50 had already raised six children of her own.
“It was tough,” Mager said. “Thankfully I had my grandma, she lived in the same town. She came over right away and started taking care of us. She definitely did a great job.”
“I had to grow up quick but at the end of the day, it kind of made me the person I am today. I feel like I can go through anything that the world has to give to me. Losing your mother at a young age is probably one of, if not the worst thing you can go through as a child. I feel like I’m ready for anything. There’s nothing that life can throw at me that’s going to make me feel worse than when I lost my mom.”
Listen to the full interview with Craig Mager HERE
Mager said he had to mature quickly, becoming an father figure to his three younger sisters.
“I would cook for them when I could. I would take out the trash, I would do all of the home things that a guy was supposed to do. Mow the yard, try to make them do their homework, it’s just the role that you have to take. I definitely tried to take some of the experiences and some of the mistakes that I made and tell them so they wouldn’t try to follow some of the same footsteps. Not have the proper guidance and end of making a bunch of the same mistakes. I just tried to be the best guide and inspiration that I can to them. As long as they can look up to me and be like hey, that’s my big brother, he’s doing big things, we can do big things too.”
Football became a sanctuary of sorts for Mager. As a young child, his mother enrolled him in Pee Wee football, but there was a time when he thought he wanted to be a basketball player. But as his body started to develop, he became a better football player and saw a glimpse of his future. He also made a promise to his mother.
“I was telling her ‘I’m going to go to the NFL.’ I promised her a pink Yukon, a pink Escalade truck. That’s what she wanted. That was her life’s dream car. So I was telling her yeah, I’m gonna make it. It’s definitely unfortunate. Hopefully I can get her a car or something that will be chilling somewhere.”
Now, Mager is a member of the San Diego Chargers. He will return to San Diego on May 10th to prepare for rookie camp, meet his new teammates and prepare on becoming a shutdown corner.
“I love to be on an island by myself. Being soloed up. I hate the stereotypes that corners can’t tackle. Hopefully I can bring my tackling as well as a great shutdown corner for the Chargers.”
What would Cathy Mager say if she could see him today?
“Where’s my pink escalade? I can see her saying that. I know she’s extremely proud right now.”
And don’t be surprised if you see Craig Mager driving around San Diego one day in a pink escalade.
“Don’t be shocked, that’s for mom.”