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July 2003

Steve and Sarah Tasker -
Team Players

by Joseph H. RADDER

Everybody who knows anything about pro football knows that Steve Tasker was an outstanding player over the thirteen years he played for the NFL. He was the first player Marv Levy signed after becoming the team's coach in 1986. Fans remember Tasker's first catch as a Bill against the Phoenix Cardinals which he turned into a touchdown. They remember the crucial punt number 89 blocked in Super Bowl XXVII. They know he was voted to play in seven Pro Bowls and was selected as Most Valuable Player in 1997. They know that earlier this year he was nominated to the NFL Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. And of course they remember Steve's picture perfect play in so many games including four Super Bowls. Above all, perhaps, they remember him as a team player, quick to share the credit with his team-mates.

 

However, not everybody knows that Steve Tasker is still a team player. Today his team-mate is his wife, Sarah Tasker who works side-by-side with him in so many public service endeavors. There's the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the March of Dimes, and Asbury Shalom Zone. They are also enthusiastic workers at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in East Aurora. Steve and Sarah help other Bills alumni with their causes, for example, they support the work of Jim and Jill Kelly for Hunter's Hope. In February Steve did a play with Linda Pellegrino called Love Letters to benefit Niagara Hospice.

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High School cheerleader
and basketball star - 1979.

At a college dance -
1983.

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Engaged - 1985.

Married - 1986.

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Steve and Sarah with Jake in between.
Annelise and Deke with Mowgli in between.
Luke and Tap - 1999.

Sarah and Steve are very family-oriented people as well. They have five children. Jacob is the youngest. At age five he's a pre-schooler and adores his older brothers and sister. Gabriel, age nine, is called Tap after Steve's grandfather. Lucas, age twelve, is a natural athlete and plays the drums. Three of the Tasker children play a musical instrument. Annelise, age fourteen, survives very well as the only girl in the family thanks to her many friends and interests. Deacon, who will turn sixteen in September, was the first-born and is a serious athlete, plays football on his high school team, and works on his grandfather's farm in the summertime.

 

Speaking of that farm brings back a lot of wonderful memories to Sarah. "As teenagers, we always worked on our family farm," she said. "Life was very simple back in Kansas. Play was simple, work was simple, and life was clean." For fourteen years, Steve and Sarah planned to go back to Kansas to live, but finally decided just this year to make Buffalo their permanent home. Sarah's Bachelor degree in Architecture is providing a great foundation in planning their new dream house. "We go back home to Kansas frequently and our parents fly here to see us, but this is home now and we love it."

 

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Steve at 3 - 1965.

Sarah at 1 - 1963.

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Sarah and Annelise, Luke and Deke carrying on the farm traditions.

Friends and neighbors know the Taskers as a strong Christian family, abiding by Christian principles, and trying to make the world a better place. "We don't feel like we have it made," Sarah told us, "but we fight the battle every day."

 

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Steve's mother JoAnn and
father Gordon.

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The very religious Taskers celebrating Jake's baptism.

You wouldn't think Steve's work for CBS as an NFL game analyst and doing local radio and TV shows would leave much time for family life, but Steve and Sarah are devoted parents and very much involved with their five children.

 

Steve and Sarah were both raised in Kansas, and were married there in 1986, soon after his rookie year with the Houston Oilers. "My Mom and Dad are still living," he says happily. "Dad is a retired Methodist minister, and they live on the 10th fairway of their favorite golf course in Winfield, Kansas, just outside of Wichita." Needless to say, Steve is a willing and enthusiastic golf partner for his Dad and Mom when they go home to visit.

 

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Steve's Tasker family.

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Keith, Steve, Paul and
David with Dad and Mom.

Paul, Steve, Keith and
David with Dad and Mom.

Sarah is a farmer's daughter and has two brothers. Her roots in Kansas don't run as deep as Steve's however, because her father was originally a Naval officer and FBI Agent and they moved twenty-one times before settling down on the farm in Leoti.

 

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Sarah's Mehl family.

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Sarah's mom Marcia and
dad Lanny with Dodger.

Sarah and her brothers Shad and
Steele Mehl.

Steve Tasker was born in 1962 in Smith Center, Kansas. He liked growing up in a small town. "The world was very filtered out there," he said. Sports, of course were at the top of his list of favorite activities. "I played football, basketball, and track in high school." Indeed he was state champion in track his senior year. That speed he developed obviously served him well on the football field, in high school, in junior college at Dodge City, in college at Northwestern, and eventually for the NFL.

 

As a football player he was always listed as a wide receiver, but played mostly special teams. We're told Jim Kelly wanted Steve to be a starting wide receiver but, in his wisdom, Marv Levy insisted Steve concentrate on special teams. That was part of Marv's genius. While some coaches use special teams as a catch-all for rookies and second-rate players, Marv was smart enough to know that special teams are just as important as offense and defense and can win or lose games. That's why Steve Tasker, one of the greatest players on the Bills' greatest teams, was first and foremost a special teams player.

 

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Starring at Northwestern.

The greatest Buffalo Bills
Special Teams player.

Tasker majored in communications at Northwestern, where he earned a bachelor's degree. Many Bills fans will remember his college room-mate, John Kidd, who was one of the Bills most outstanding punters.

 

Steve tells a funny story about how he learned he was coming to Buffalo from Houston.

 

"I was on the waiver wire at Houston because I had been injured, and league rules say you have to be on the waiver wire for 24 hours. They put me on Thursday night at 5 o'clock. I came in Friday morning and Jerry Glanville, the Oilers' head coach, said there was a phone call for me and that I had been picked up by Buffalo. I picked up the phone and this guy on the phone said 'My name is Bo Shempley of the Buffalo Bills' and he asked 'Has your agent called you about being picked up by Buffalo?' I said no, he hadn't. The fact was I didn't have an agent. And he continued 'We'll call you back in about a half hour because we're going to fly you into Buffalo this afternoon.'" This was a real shocker, and disturbing because Steve had invited his Mom and Dad to Houston for the game that Sunday. To make a long story short, he eventually learned from a team-mate that it wasn't the Bills on the phone at all, but the Houston conditioning coach playing a joke on him. The irony of all this is that when Steve got home that day, the first message on his machine was from Bill Polian, the Bills' general manager. And this time it was real. Tasker had a big smile on his face when he told us, "The next morning I got on a plane and went to Buffalo and never went back." Was he unhappy to be going to a team with a 2 and 14 record? "Not at all. I was proud that somebody wanted me to play for them."

 

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Now announcing with CBS.

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Steve joined Linda Pellegrino in "Love Letters" -
a play by A.R. Gurney - to benefit Hospice.

Of course, the rest is history. The Bills started winning under Marv Levy and with Jim Kelly at quarterback and Steve Tasker making big plays on special teams, they went to the Super Bowl four times! Even though they lost, what other team can say they made it to the Super Bowl four straight?

 

Among things that stand out in Tasker's memory of those glory years are of his first game as a Bill against the Pittsburgh Steelers. "The stadium was full, with 80,000 cheering people. The wind was blowing 45 miles per hour. And we won that game." All the play-off games, the championship games, and the Super Bowls blend together with many happy memories.

 

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With family at Steve's
retirement - 1997.

Sarah's nephews and
nieces and children.

Steve Tasker's philosophy of life? "Try to make good decisions for the right reasons." It's clear that he's made a lot of good decisions, one of the most important being the decision to ask Sarah Mehl to be his wife.

 

One of the great benefits of having major league sports teams here is the fact that they bring a lot of good people to town who decide to make Buffalo their permanent home. Indeed Sarah and Steve Tasker are a great asset to Buffalo.

 

He says "Sarah and I came here in 1986 with a dog. Now we have five children and a different dog. We'd love to see our children grow up right here in Buffalo and make it their home just as we have."

 

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Tap, Annelise, Luke, Jake and Deke -
off to a wonderful life.

Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer.

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