Football Player Dedicates His Sophomore Season to Friend’s Memory


Maretta Ramirez

Sophomore Trae Ferril plays for the Raider team wearing number 84, the number that his friend Tayden Stentz used to wear.

Tayden Stentz wearing jersey number 84 prior to getting sick. (Courtesy Photo)

Wearing jersey number 84 sophomore Trae Ferril gets in stance for kickoff. The whistle blows and the game begins, but Trae’s mind is elsewhere. He’s thinking about his friend, the original number 84, and Trae desperately wishes he was on the field with him. However, it can’t be. Too much has happened, and there is no turning back.

I just wanted to start the season with my friend. I felt lost and I had no motivation to keep going anymore.

— Sophomore Trae Ferril

Hoping to play football in college and the NFL, Trae has always had a passion for football, and it was a love that he shared with two of his closest friends and teammates, Ryan Lickey and Tayden Stentz. However, after Tayden became ill then lost a battle with bone cancer in 2019 Trae struggled both with missing his friend and being on the field without him.

“(Tayden passed away) freshman year right before the season started,” Trae said. “I just wanted to start the season with my friend. I felt lost and I had no motivation to keep going anymore. There was no reason to play because I wouldn’t have him there to get through the season.”

Ryan Lickey and Trae Ferril visit Tayden Stentz in the hospital. (Courtesy Photo)

Through his pain and loss, Trae couldn’t regain his desire to play the sport he once loved. That’s when a support system stepped in and gave him the idea to play for a purpose.

“My mom, sister, family members and good friends helped me to push through this dark time in my life,” Trae said. “They helped me to find my passion in the sport and encouraged me to play for Tayden and dedicate the season to him.”

Since then, in memory of his friend, Trae wears Tayden’s old number on his jersey and around his neck. As Trae walks on the field, number 84 is always with him reminding him of the passion they once shared.

Trae Ferril releases a balloon in memory of Tayden Stentz at Raider Field. (Courtesy Photo)

“I work hard, lift weights and push myself to run faster,” Trae said. “I want my coaches to see my determination and I want to be my best for Tayden and the people who have supported me on my football journey.”

As much as Trae supported Tayden, Tayden supported Trae.

— Sophomore Ryan Lickey

Ryan, who also struggled after Tayden’s death, said he has noticed a big difference in Trae since he dedicated his season to Tayden.

“Trae has been a lot more determined about football and more excited about it in general,” Ryan said. “He’s hoping to prove himself.”

In dedicating his season to Tayden, Trae also set a goal to make a touchdown in memory of his friend. However, a hamstring injury threatened that goal.

Trae Ferril holds Tayden’s hand in the hospital. (Courtesy Photo)

“I was on the sidelines for most of the games,” Trae said. “In the last game of the season, I didn’t expect to get into the game much at all. I didn’t think I would be able to make a touchdown because there was so little time left, but then coach called me in and he picked the play he knew I would score on.”

Trae took his position on the field, and as planned, he took possession of the ball, set his eyes on the endzone and scored. In the last game of the year, he finally made a touchdown for Tayden.

“Ryan was waiting on the sidelines for me,” Trae said. “I held my emotions together for the rest of the game but then went home and cried. I was so excited, and Tayden would’ve been excited. He would’ve jumped all over me and knocked me over.”

I will continue to wear his jersey number. Each time I score, his mother will know what the number represents.

— Sophomore Trae Ferril

Ryan said he would’ve loved to see Tayden’s reaction.

“Tayden loved football,” Ryan said.  “As much as Trae supported Tayden, Tayden supported Trae.”

Even though the season is over, Trae said he will not stop playing football for his friend.

“I will continue to wear his jersey number,” Trae said. “Each time I score, his mother will know what the number represents.”