In a lot of ways, Taden Blaise is your typical high school football star. The 6’2″, 205 lb. quarterback is in his second year as the starting signal caller at Chaparral, he’s got flowing blonde locks reminiscent of Sunshine in Remember The Titans and he plays with a sort of confidence you can sense from the stands.
But there is much more to Blaise than meets the eye on Friday nights; there is a history to him that makes his heart-on-his-sleeve style of play all the more understandable. Because for Blaise, football has been the only positive constant in an upbringing filled with a lot of negatives—addiction, neglect, abuse—and, until recently, complete and utter turmoil.
“I was born into kind of a rough life and a rough family,” Taden Blaise says. “I went through life getting beat up and it was a rough time growing up… I didn’t have parents that were necessarily there for me and that did a whole lot for me.”
By the time Blaise reached ninth grade, the chaos of his personal life as well as the lack of stability at home mirrored his inability to settle down at one particular school; he started at Thomas Jefferson but then transferred to Parker Lutheran five weeks into his freshman fall, and by his sophomore year his father decided it would be best for Blaise to pack up and head to Apopka High School (Apopka, Fla.).
In Florida, football continued to be Blaise’s bright spot in life, as he won a state championship in 2014. But eventually his dad ran out of money, and Blaise again found himself in Colorado for his junior year, this time at Chaparral. That shift back among the mountains proved to be the volta for Blaise; he threw for over 2,100 yards and 19 TD while guiding the Wolverines to a 7-4 mark last year, and off the field, he started dating Chaparral junior Avree Martinez.
What started as what Martinez dubs “a fling at Parker Days”—you’d be hard-pressed to find a better opening to a Parker love story than that—grew into not just a romantic relationship between Blaise and Martinez, but also into beams of support for when the down-on-his-luck quarterback, emancipated from his father and set to go into the foster care system, needed it most.
“Her parents were the only people who were able to and ready to take care of me, so I moved in and we thought it might be temporary,” Blaise explains, “and now, about a year later, it’s kind of a permanent thing.”
Blaise continues: “It’s definitely a very adult thing we’re in; it’s not common for a 16 or 17 year old to be a part of that, and it’s definitely not common for an entire family to be so welcoming of (a situation like mine) at our age.”
The Martinez family officially adopted Blaise at the end of July, adding another athletic cog to a family that includes a former professional athlete turned coach in dad Chris Martinez and a Division I soccer commit in Avree, who is headed to play at the University of New Mexico.
And now, Blaise finally has a family unit to back him as he continues to grind toward his college decision, which he says he’ll make at the end of the season in anticipation that his play will yield a few more opportunities outside of his lone offer from the Colorado School of Mines.
“At the moment, I’m leaning toward Mines, because the bottom line is I have to go to school for free,” Blaise says. “That’s how it’s been my whole life if I want to go to college, because no one’s going to be able to pay for me and I don’t want to get into loans.”
The Wolverines dropped the 2016 season opener 30-7 to Grandview, a night in which Blaise was operating under heavy duress for much of the ballgame and Chaparral didn’t score again after playing the Wolves to a 7-7 tie after one quarter.
“We went in confident, and we thought we had a solid game plan going in,” Blaise says. “They played us exactly how we thought they would, and we just underperformed… We went back and analyzed all the mistakes we made, and the effort level just wasn’t there from all of us, including myself.”
Chaparral hit the film room hard this week in anticipation of the Week Two road showdown at Prairie View, and the Wolverines are hungry to get their offense rolling early against the Thunderhawks. In particular, look for the offensive line to set the tone up front and give Blaise time to dispense the pigskin to K.J. Phillips and Carnell Lewis in the backfield as well as the likes of Alec Horn and Peyton Ross out wide.
“My whole line is a unit—if one’s not clicking, then they’re all not clicking,” Blaise says. “We’ve got to make sure we have communication up front—Ethan Reid is our left tackle and he’s the big vocal senior, and we’ve got to make sure he’s got everybody on track this week.”
Ultimately, Blaise believes in the 2016 team’s chances of making a bonafide 5A playoff run. And with their gritty, mature-past-his-years senior quarterback at the helm, that certainly seems like a realistic goal for the Wolverines.
“I see so much in this team,” Blaise says. “We go out there and play for each other, and we don’t back down.”