During senior night at the home varsity football game Aug. 26 at the District Activities Center, senior defensive lineman Tyler Shanks comforts his family as they celebrate his last year and mourn the loss of his father. Shanks’ father passed away during his freshman year, and that has been one of his major motivators as an athlete since.

Faith And Family

Football Player Works To Overcome Grief After Loss Of Father

“Losing him is just like losing my best friend, like losing my rock because he was there, he had my back through everything, and he pushed me through everything,” senior Tyler Shanks said about his father.

Back in 2019, pre-covid, Shanks’ first high school football season, and his life, was hit with an abrupt change. Two days before the season started, his father died, and he played his first football game of his high school career without his father by his side.

“He was my motivation,” Shanks said. “He was the guy who was waking me up at 5 a.m. in 8th grade and 7th grade in school to run on the track and just prepare for the next level, which is high school. And so he was always helping me do that.”  

Shanks used two different sources to help him with the pain he thought he could never overcome: his family and his faith. Christianity, one of the most important parts of Tyler’s life, started to confuse him after his father passed. He struggled believing his father had died, and he had questions about his beliefs. He wondered if keeping up with his faith was worth it, and he was on the verge of losing that faith.

“When my dad passed is one of the most recent times when I had lost my faith because it was like, ‘Why?’ I just had that question for God, ‘Why him? And why now?,’ and a lot of whys, and it made me just question,” Shanks said.

Even when he felt that his faith no longer had any meaning to him, he managed to continue believing. He began to think more about the reason behind his faith. 

“You start to think about it more, and it’s like, ‘OK, well that happened for a reason.’ There was an actual reason that that happened that he passed away, whether that’s to motivate me to go play in the NFL one day, so be it,” Shanks said.

Shanks’ family, especially his mother, aided him after his father’s death. Tyler’s mother had done everything for him, according to Tyler. To him, his mother was an angel, He said she’s his hero, and he was blessed to have her in his life. Tyler said his mother changed the trajectory of his high school career after his dad died, and she steered him away from going down the wrong path. For that, he is thankful.  

“If it wasn’t for her, I could have went down a completely different path,” Shanks said. “But she always stuck by my side and stuck with me and kept motivating me and got me back on the right path.” 

Four years after Shanks’ father passed away, he lived by a specific mindset he held himself to, and he used it to move forward. 

“Things get better,” Shanks said. “Things get worse before they get better; that’s the truth.”

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