STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW)- The Stratford Tigers are one win away from their first state football title since 2008. For one of their star players, it would be the completion of a journey you have to hear to believe.
Stratford senior football player Teddy Redman at a practice in Stratford, WI on October 17, 2019. (WSAW)
"I would go to bed, and not want to go to sleep, because I was afraid I would wake up back in Africa."
The dominant Stratford Tigers of 2019 have been led in large part by senior running back and cornerback Teddy Redman, whose journey here started over a decade ago, 5,000 miles and continents away.
"It was a struggle, every day we were trying to find food,” said Redman. “My mother worked as much as she could to try to provide for us, my dad who lived with us would leave and never come home for days, weeks, we wouldn't know when he was coming home."
Redman was born in Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, and sent to an orphanage by the time he was five.
After a difficult process that included three different adoption attempts, he was finally brought to America by his adopted mother, Julie. However, the hardships for Teddy didn't stop there.
"Honestly when I came to America, this part of my therapy was actually trying to believe that this was reality for me,” Redman said. “Because I believed that it wasn't reality for me for the longest time, I thought everything was fake and everything would go back."
It took Redman years to get over the feeling of being abandoned by his birth mother. He was introduced to football in third grade, which helped him attain some of the validation he had been seeking since he left Africa.
"Every time I got the ball and I scored, people cheered so loudly, and it was just that approval that I wanted from my mother in Africa so much, so it was kind of just a trigger,” Redman said. “So since then every time I got the ball, I wanted to score every single possession.
Fast forward to this year, sports and Redman's faith have allowed him to become a confident leader of this dominant Stratford group.
This despite the fact that he didn't play last season, as he focused on basketball instead. That meant he could only watch from the bleachers as the Tigers came up just short in the state title game.
"Watching that state game was very difficult for me,” Redman said. “My teammates, we've been through so much, and just feeling like I let them down. I did have a feeling or sense that there's no way I'm going to let that happen again."
The Tigers have a chance to redeem themselves at Camp Randall on Thursday. For Redman, it would be the culmination of a fairy tale journey.
"We're playing like we're playing in the backyard when we were younger,” Redman said. “We're playing for each other, we're having fun, but at the same time we're doing something special. The thing is we realize that.”