When Shannon Fedorus remembers watching her tiny triplets in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit 15 years ago she could never have imagined that her boys would someday find success on the football field, let alone at a national level.
She delivered Paige, Lane and Parker premature at 33 weeks because doctors were concerned that Parker had stopped growing.
“When they were born, Lane was four pounds, 12 ounces, Paige was four pounds one ounce and Parker was three pounds, one ounce. So he was the smallest of all of them and Parker spent the longest in NICU, he was in NICU for 31 days,” she said, noting that the other two came home at 19 and 21 days old.
Now that tiny three-pound baby has grown into a football linebacker whose success on the provincial team has landed him a spot on the under 16 Team Canada West at the International Bowl in Arlington, Texas. Parker and Lane Schmaltz both play Regina Minor Football and competed with Team Saskatchewan. While their sister Paige has chosen to go the route of music and arts.
Their mom admits their family’s journey from the NICU to the gridiron was a surprise for her. Thinking back to that first month, all she can remember is feeling anxious.
“At that point, it was just kind of day by day and I just wanted them to get bigger and hold their body temperature and eat on their own and all of those things that preemie parents worry about,” Fedorus said. “Yeah, I never really thought that we’d get to this stage that we’d be travelling to Texas to watch Parker play for Team Canada.”
Despite those early anxious moments, Fedorus said she always knew that her kids could grow up to do anything they wanted and she always encouraged them to work hard toward their goals.
Parker and Lane played many different sports as young children, but they caught the football bug early joining flag football at the age of five before starting tackle football at nine.
“I remember Parker’s first interception and him running down the field to score a touchdown during touch football,” Fedorus recalled proudly.
Once the boys started playing in the Regina Minor Football league the whole family started living and breathing football throughout the season. Feddorus said she goes to all the games and many of the practices and the family also watches a lot of NFL, CFL and college football games.
Now she laughs that she considers herself almost an expert, going over all the plays in detail with the boys after each game.
For his part, Schmaltz said he loves the thrill of competition and the physical aspect of being able to hit someone on the field.
When asked who his biggest influence in football is, Smaltz jumped in with an answer.
“Definitely my coach Fred Perry, he played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2007, won the Grey Cup and has just been basically my role model and made me a better man on and off the field,” Smaltz said.
As for what he has learned from Perry who coaches the Stampeders for RMF, Schmaltz said it’s “to believe in myself definitely, and to make me work hard and to know that in the end, everything’s going to pay off.”
When he journeys to the heart of American football country in Texas on January 11, the teenager is prepared for a lot of hard work, saying that he knows he won’t be able to give an inch on the field.
He said it makes him feel better to know his siblings and his mom will be there to cheer him on, but admits his brother who normally plays with him won’t be used to being in the stands.
The future holds a lot of promise for Schmaltz, who will start playing high school football after this year for Winston Knoll. Looking to the future, he already has his sights set on a scholarship and maybe even a shot at the CFL or NFL.