As he explained to Indystar, Father Thomas Haan felt he was a bit different from his teammates in the Purdue University locker room. He worked hard and became a walk-on quarterback for Purdue as a freshman. He looked like he had it all, but he knew he wanted something more.
Raised on a farm in Lafayette, Indiana, Father Haan did not always want to be a priest. His family was religious and attended Mass regularly, but as a record-setting quarterback in high school, he thought he knew where his life was headed.
One day, a parish priest said to him, “Are you open to whatever God’s got in store for you?” Father Haan explains, “I’d always say ‘Yes’ because I was dating someone throughout high school and I thought I knew what God wanted, so I didn’t take it seriously one bit in high school.”
In college, things started to change. He made the football team, which left little time for other activities. “When you’re playing college football, you study football, you play football, you think football, you eat football. It’s just very time-consuming. It wasn’t until after that year was over that I began to ponder bigger questions,” he said.
At the beginning of his sophomore year, he began praying and discerning and eventually decided to quit playing football and instead coach a junior high school team. “I loved teaching them technique, but I began to realize I cared more about them growing up as true men, their virtue, their relationship with God," he said. "I cared more about their spiritual life than their spiral.”
He began devoting time to Catholic studies and eventually left Purdue for the University of Notre Dame to live in a house of discernment with other men. He graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in economics and philosophy and a greater understanding of what he wanted to do.
He went to the seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and was ordained in 2013. He now works at Guerin Catholic High School where he helps students see the value in both sports and God.
“I still see sports having the tremendous potential of being a great forum to learn the virtues of life,” Haan said. “Of self-sacrifice, of discipline, of tempering your passions, of teamwork, of humility, of obedience to superiors, to coaches.”