Sometimes in sports an athlete comes along who transcends the game. They remind us that sport is just that, and that the reasons we play are not wins and losses, but for the memories. The lessons we learn along the way have more value than any number on a scoreboard, or statistic in a record book.
This week, the Sault Area Football Association (SAFA) and Sault Minor Football League (SMFL) would like to recognize one of those athletes, and one of our stars, Taten Hammerberg. Taten only played one season in the SMFL, but his legacy will live on, as this week the SMFL presented him with the 1st Annual Taten Hammerberg Award.
The Taten Hammerberg Award will be awarded annually to the SMFL player who demonstrates courage and perseverance in overcoming adversity on and off the field. Taten Hammerberg will be the first recipient.
Taten played last season for Coach Tony Boniferro’s Tim Horton’s team in the Mite division. Playing on the offensive line despite having lost a leg to cancer, a battle he continues to fight, Taten’s determination to play was an inspiration to his team, and to everyone in the league.
“Taten is a kid who literally has a smile on his face ALL the time,” said Boniferro. During the season he’d travel to Sudbury for doctor’s appointments weekly, but always had a smile on his face. He was a great teammate.” Despite his personal battle with cancer, Taten always encouraged other kids and put in the most effort. “When we would do a lap at the beginning of practice or sprints after practice, we would always tell him to ‘take it easy pal’ and he would look up at us with a huge smile and say, ‘I’m good coach!’”
Boniferro fondly recalls the play where Taten scored his first and only touchdown. “I asked him if he was ready to score, and Taten replied ‘But coach, I’ve never ran that far before without stopping!’ The next words out of his mouth were, ‘But let’s try it!’ That comment captures Taten’s attitude on the football field, and his touchdown run is one of the best moments I’ve ever experienced as a coach.”
The SMFL is proud to honour Taten with this award, and to have had the privilege of having Taten as part of our league. “When Taten’s mom contacted us about him playing football last year, we didn’t hesitate,” said Jim Monico, President of the SMFL. “We want every kid to experience the joy of playing football, and we do everything we can to give them a great experience. The SMFL is a better league when we are fortunate enough to have a Taten Hammerberg play in it.”
In addition to creating the Taten Hammerberg Award, the SMFL is proud to announce that it will also be taking part in the “Taten’s Warriors” campaign. All players in the SMFL will wear a “Taten’s Warriors” sticker on their helmets during the upcoming season, and the league will be making a donation in Taten’s name to ARCH.