MOUNTAIN IRON — When Mountain Iron-Buhl junior Beau Tapio steps out on to the field under the Friday night lights, there’s no difference between him and any of the other 21 players on the field.
His opponents will look across the line of scrimmage and see just another Ranger lineman in red and black — and that’s exactly how he wants it to be.
Born with a group of movement disorders known as cerebral palsy, Tapio has learned to adapt to any obstacle he sees in front of him. This year, some convincing from MI-B football captain Dillon Drake brought Tapio on to the gridiron for the first time, allowing him to achieve a lifelong dream he had for himself.
“I only made this decision this past summer,” Tapio said earlier this week. “I go to all of the practices anyway just to watch and one of my buddies just talked me into it.
“So I thought, ‘What could go wrong?’ To me, there was no negatives to just giving it a try. I’ve always liked football so if I do it and it works out, that’s great. I just wanted to go out and play.”
Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by abnormal development to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance and posture. This can give rise to abnormal muscle tone, reflexes or motor development and coordination. Those with CP can go through physical therapy in order to help the disorder, but there is no known cure at this time.
At the beginning of the preseason, certain drills at practices were a struggle for Tapio. However, he says that it’s no different than any other person picking up a skill for the first time.
“That’s just how it is with everything. Right away there’s going to be that struggle. It’s going to be a grind, whether it’s a job or school or a sport. It’s a struggle at first but once you get into it, it just builds on itself and you feel accomplished when you figure it out.”
Tapio says that he limits himself in a few things at practice, but once the Friday night lights turn on, it’s game time and there’s no holding back.
“At the games, you just go out there and play. There’s no excuses once you’re in a game. You get those lights on you and that Friday night vibe takes over. It’s a one of a kind experience.”
Beau’s parents, Brandon and Tabitha Tapio, were initially surprised at the idea of their son playing football, but knew that he wouldn’t be stopped if that’s what he wanted to do.
“I would have never guessed he’d go out and play football,” his mother said. “That was the shocking part. He’s always pushed himself to go farther and we’ve always told him to do whatever he wants. He can do it all if he wants it.”
“I told him we’d give it a whirl,” his father said. “We’ve pushed him to try things ever since he was a kid. He’s always done everything everybody else has so why would this be any different.”
Growing up, Tapio has been involved in many other sports from soccer to T-ball and archery to wrestling. With a child that wants to do just about everything, giving him the confidence to succeed with CP was integral at a young age.
“We don’t treat him any differently,” Brandon said. “He’s not the one that makes excuses. Have him try just about everything he can try and don’t let him have excuses.”
In his first game of the season, Tapio said his nerves were up. But those jitters washed away quickly as the clock kept rolling.
“I just thought it was so cool to have the lights on me,” Tapio said. “To be on the field instead of on the sideline or the bleachers was amazing.”
“When you hear everyone in the stand cheering Beau’s name, it’s a great feeling,” Tabitha said. “You’re always worried as a parent in the stands, but watching him fulfill this dream of his was awesome.”
“We didn’t expect it,” his father said. “We both worry to a point, but out there everyone is hitting hard. Nobody knows what he has when he’s out there so nobody takes it easy on him.”
As defending Section 7-9 Man champions, the Rangers have their work cut out for them this season with a few tough teams in their section, but Tapio knows he and his teammates have the talent and drive to achieve that level of success once again.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us, I think,” Tapio said. “But we feel like we can handle that pressure and go out and execute and get it done. No matter what the score is, there’s always room to improve. There’s always flaws to work on.”
Seemingly defying the odds, Tapio hopes that his story gives other kids the courage to try something they thought they couldn’t do, whether it be sports or anything else.
“I go along and I do the things that I can do,” Tapio said. “If other kids look up to me then that’s great. It’s a plus side. I try to do the best I can do every day. I would tell anyone just to go for it. Part of me thinks I should have done this sooner but now I think that it’s better late than never. I have another year after this too so I’m really looking forward to what’s to come.”