A Christian, a husband, a father, and a father figure for so many others, Taz Roberts loved using football to teach life lessons
RIDGEFIELD — Winning is great, but developing young men is even better.
That was the philosophy of a Ridgefield man who loved football, loved what it teaches, and loved using the game for a greater good.
This football season, many high school teams in Clark County will be wearing decals on their helmets to honor Taz Roberts, a Christian, a husband, a father, a youth coach — pretty much the kind of guy every community needs.
Roberts died in November after a nine-year battle with ALS.
On Thursday at football practice, his youngest son Tanner, a senior at Ridgefield, received the first “Taz 40” sticker and placed it on his helmet.
Tanner smiled, thinking about his dad, noting the impact his father had not just in Ridgefield, but throughout the football community.
“I’m glad … people are recognizing him, and kind of remembering him in such a cool way like this,” Tanner said. “He was a coach and a father figure to a lot of kids. So this is really cool.”
Taz Roberts was never a head coach at the varsity level, never the spotlight on Friday nights. And that was just fine by him.
He was a fixture at Ridgefield High School and a supporter of all athletes, everywhere.
Football was his favorite sport. He admired the men who coach, who teach life lessons through the game.
And they admired him.
Last year, Taz Roberts completed one of his final goals, getting those men to join him at his home to talk football.
With his condition leaving him with the use of one finger, he emailed all of the football coaches in the region, asking them to come to his house, to exchange ideas, to have an evening together that had nothing to do with competing against each other.
Most of the coaches accepted the invitation.
That night was a success. So successful, they had another. And another.
The Southwest Washington Football Collaboration was born. Longtime coaches made it. Young coaches made it. State champion coaches made it.
They met a few times, actually, last winter before COVID-19 changed everything.
Two-time state champion coach Rick Steele of Hockinson was there.
“Coaching is a brotherhood. It’s always nice to get together and just spend time with other coaches outside the normal arena,” Steele said. “Taz would send out a topic that we could discuss. We’d get there, and we’d all discuss it. Taz would just sit in a corner. He’d have a huge smile on his face. He really enjoyed watching all these coaches talk about different things.”
While Ridgefield was Taz Roberts’ favorite team, he enjoyed the success of other programs in the region. He loved Hockinson winning back-to-back state championships. He appreciated all that Camas had done to put Southwest Washington football on the map.
And last winter, the coaches were there, in his home, celebrating football, celebrating him.
“From time to time, I’d glance over. You could tell how much it meant to him,” Steele said. “The man just wanted to be part of football. That was his way to be part of football in Clark County. Invite people to his home, feed them, and give them a topic to talk about.
“It was my pleasure to get to know that man.”
Scott Rice was hired as Ridgefield’s head coach prior to the 2019 season. It took about a nanosecond from the time Rice got the job until he received an email from Taz.
Rice learned that Taz used to coach Clark County Youth Football. Taz used to coach youth baseball. He was pretty much Mr. Ridgefield Football, too. He was everywhere, Rice said.
“He was a great wealth of knowledge. He had the lay of the land,” Rice said. “He has a special place in my heart and a lot of people’s hearts in Ridgefield.”
Rice said the Southwest Washington Football Collaboration was big for him, too.
“It was a really cool experience, especially as a young coach, hearing from people who have done it 20, 30 years,” Rice said. “What I was so amazed by was the humility in the room. Guys were like, ‘Teach me something. Help me learn something.’”
It all came about because of Taz Roberts.
Now those coaches want to honor Taz. Ridgefield’s football helmets will have the decals this year, but it’s not just the Spudders. Other teams, such as Hockinson, have asked for the decals. Some coaches said they are planning to wear the decals on their clothing on game nights. The 40 in the “Taz 40” decal is for his number when he played college football at Eastern Oregon University.
All of this has been amazing and a bit overwhelming for the Roberts family.
“The furthest thing from Taz’s mind was that this would draw attention to himself,” said Sarah Roberts.
She and Taz raised three sons: Jonah is 24, Tucker is 21, and Tanner, the senior at Ridgefield, is 18. They have relied on their faith to help them through Taz’s long battle.
“We see what it looks like when you serve others and the Lord blesses you in ways you don’t even fathom,” Sarah said. “It’s not even on the radar how good the Ridgefield community and the coaches in the community of Clark County have been to our family. It’s been fantastic.”
In 2018, Taz was named an honorary captain for a Ridgefield football game.
Every moment like that, every moment of the coaching conventions in their home … those are cherished memories for the Roberts family.
Taz Roberts was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2011. It has no cure. Doctors told Taz that he would have 2 to 5 years.
Sarah remembers the drive home that day.
“Taz said, ‘This is not going to define me. My main job is to train up these three boys.’ Our goals didn’t change,” Sarah said. “Our goals were to influence his three boys. He was the most amazing dad.”
It surprised no one who knows Taz that he held on for so much longer than that initial diagnosis.
That’s Taz, always inspiring.
“He never complained to me, ever, or to his boys,” Sarah said. “He just knew that with the time the Lord had given him, he was going to spend it well, and he was going to finish well.
“And he did.”
Taz 40 Forever.