Going into the 2009 season Cal was expected to have one of the best cornerback combos in the country. While Syd'Quan Thompson had a generally excellent season, Darian Hagan struggled with academics, injuries and consistency. And he came under more than a little criticism from fans and the media for those struggles. But as reported by Jonathan Okanes in an excellent piece, Hagan was keeping some serious personal issues to himself:
Hagan disclosed recently that his then 1-year-old daughter, Kaiyana, battled cancer all through last season. She was diagnosed in May 2009 with Wilms' tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer that primarily affects toddlers. She had chemotherapy treatments during the season.
Wow. Hagan refused to disclose his daughter's illness last year for fear of appearing to be 'making excuses' for his on-field performance. Now that Kaiyana appears to be on he way to a full recovery Hagan felt comfortable taking about his tumultuous year. Considering this revelation Cal fans hopefully will rally to support Hagan as he looks to rebound in his senior season. If he does bounce back it will make an already heart-warming story even better. And in case any Cal fans are wondering if they have the right coach they should consider quotes like this:
On how Jeff Tedford has worked with him on his academics:
"He’s the first person I talk to whenever it’s an academic situation. Through it all, even when I was at my worst in academics, he sat me down and talked to me one on one and told me he still believed in me. He gave me chance after chance. He just never gave up."