Athletes share their thoughts on the annual Shrine Bowl

Note by Sheldon Christenson: I originally contacted Colbey Steeke about the Shrine football game to gather a few comments on the game for my weekly column, but Colbey got into much more than the game. I asked him to send me his thoughts and Tanner’s also. The following are the feelings and thoughts from Colbey Steeke and Tanner Sanford. Colbey wrote the article after conferring with Tanner. 

Note by Sheldon Christenson: I originally contacted Colbey Steeke about the Shrine football game to gather a few comments on the game for my weekly column, but Colbey got into much more than the game. I asked him to send me his thoughts and Tanner’s also. The following are the feelings and thoughts from Colbey Steeke and Tanner Sanford. Colbey wrote the article after conferring with Tanner.

It was truly an honor to be selected for the Shrine All Star Game. We arrived at Mayville State University on Tuesday and had two practices and then three practices on Wednesday and Friday with only two practices on Thursday and Saturday.

Tanner Sanford (Record Photo)
Tanner Sanford (Record Photo)

On Thursday, there were some Shiners Hospital patients that came out to the campus and we were fortunate to get to play games with them and see the smile on their faces. It was truly inspiring to see how they were able to forget about all of their struggles and see them smile, laugh, and just having fun. That afternoon we had a couple seminars about Shriners Hospital and then the kids showed us some of the day to day struggles they had to live with every day. As Tanner and I walked out of the seminars we were truly speechless. It was so humbling to see how fortunate we really are to live very simple lives and how fortunate we are to have the God given abilities that we really have. Thankful and humbled are words that aren’t even close to explain the emotions we were feelings as we got to know these kids.

Some of the kids are real sports fanatics and they love to watch their favorite sport and one of them told me how much he looked up to me and how cool it would be to be able to “sack the quarterback”. Truth be told I really admire him on how he has endured all the obstructions, broken down so many obstacles and hurdles and has gone through so many grueling surgeries and therapy. I will never be as strong as that little boy is at such a young age.

Tanner said, “I admire how strong those kids are and it was great to give back for a day and just bring a little happiness into their life. After all we have been given and taught through athletics and football specifically it was great to give back just a little bit.”

Colby Steeke No. 85 (Record Photo)
Colby Steeke No. 85 (Record Photo)

We learned more from those kids than we could ever teach them. We learned that sometimes you’re not given the best hand but you have to learn to make the best of it and turn it in to the best hand that you possibly can. After the game we were very sore and tight. I can’t imagine that our pain isn’t even measurable to the pain those kids endure every day. After the seminars everyone walked out with a weird look on their face and everyone was really quiet because we could not fathom how those kids can make the best of everyday. With everything they have gone through and everything they will go through in the future they still manage to stay positive every day.

Region 5 was well represented on the 9-man West team as we had 14 kids and 2 coaches. It was great to get to know kids from all over the West even the ones that we have competed against for four straight years while some we just played once but got to know the kids on a personal level and everyone was very genuine and kind. As for the coaches it was strange not playing against them but playing for them. We know how they coached and they know how we played. The friendships and memories we made this week will last a lifetime.

Sunday morning we left Mayville and we headed down to Fargo and attended a banquet where I was honored to be selected as team captain and I was award the 9-man West spirit award. The 11-man game started at 4 p.m. central time and then we played around 7 p.m. Tanner and I both started on defense while I played defensive line and he played cornerback and also was the team punter. It was really eye opening playing against and with kids that are such high caliber athletes. The game was a blast and it was well worth the grueling practices that we endured during the week. Tanner said that he never thought it would be this hard to walk away from a team that we were part of for only a short couple of days.

Tanner and I feel it has been a true honor to play as a Night Hawk and represent the Hettinger and Scranton communities. The values and characteristics we have learned as student athletes will carry us through out our life. We would like to thank our parents, coaches, and teammates that have stood behind us for the last six years of athletics. Without all of their support we would not be where we are today. It has been an honor.

Neither Tanner nor I will continue our athletic careers at the collegiate level because we have both chosen to go down a different path in life. Tanner will be attending Bismarck State College and I will be attending Dickinson State University.