Before Hager's tearful moment, Kotb recalled facing rejection while on the hunt for her first job.
"I kind of thought that I was gonna get a job right away. I remember the first time I got rejected to my face I was so surprised, because I had a tape, I went to college, here's my stuff," Kotb, 57, said. "He was like, 'Well, you're too green. You're not experienced. Go to this next guy.' So he gave me another guy. I went to him and I said, 'I'm definitely going to get this job.' I'm still all dressed up. He's like, 'No, you're not experienced enough for us.' And it just kept going, and going, and going, and going. I kept going and getting the rejection."
The experience was a tough one for Kotb, who admitted, "There is a point when you get so many that your whole self-esteem goes down the toilet. You start thinking, 'I made a mistake. All these people can't be wrong.'"
But then, one person changed everything for Kotb.
"You just need one person to say you can do it. My one guy's name was Stan Sandroni. He was in Greenville, Mississippi. He hired me when no one else would. I'll never forget it," she said. "... This guy believed, and that's so shocking. You just need the one."
"Do you know who my one would be?" Hager asked her co-host. "You."
As she got choked up, Hager recalled her years at the show before landing the co-hosting gig, and how one invite from Kotb changed everything.
"I know that sounds cheesy and I almost didn't say it, but I was here for years doing a lot of different things. I worked really hard. I had producers say, 'You're a correspondent. That's where you are.' That was good. That's where I wanted to be. I wanted to tell stories," 39-year-old Hager said through tears. "And you asked me to fill in with you, and I'll never forget it. My one was you."
"She's a real hard worker, which has revealed itself in such a big way. She's a kind person, and she's putting her heart on the table," Kotb said of Hager. "I dig it, man. I dig her vibe, I dig that she's honest and open. When she messes up, she messed up and she doesn't care. When she's on fire, she's on fire and she's happy, so I'm cheering her on!"