Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Duron Carter may have made the catch of the year but it was what he did with the football afterward that was truly spectacular.

Paige Hansen attended her first Rider game as a four-year-old cancer survivor, a reward for enduring the years of treatment for childhood leukemia. Now 12, she and her mom Michelle and aunt Alisa have season tickets in the front row at new Mosaic Stadium, just off the edge of the end zone.

Saturday night, the trio made a sign honouring “The Presidents” the nickname bestowed on the receiving trio of Duron Carter, Namaan Roosevelt and Bakari Grant (each shares a surname with a former U.S. commander-in-chief.) The sign got Carter’s attention, Michelle says.

“He saw us before the game and said ‘that’s awesome. If I score a touchdown, we’re celebrating,’” she says.

Carter delivered. In the second quarter of Saskatchewan’s win over Toronto, he made a spectacular grab, backhanding the ball with one hand before corralling it as he hit the ground. The catch quickly went viral and was picked up by media outlets across North America.

“When we saw him make that catch, he did his celebration, then ran all the way across the field to hand it to my daughter,”Michelle said. “We couldn’t believe it was happening.”

After the game, the family waited for Carter who signed the ball and posed for photos with Paige.

“He is a gem. On the field, you would think he’s a big old jerk but off the field, he is unreal. He is so genuine, he never snubs anyone,”Michelle said. “He is amazing.”

Football has played a central role in Paige’s life since she went to that first game back in 2009 after a tough fight with leukemia.

“It became the thing she took comfort in, a distraction from all the things she had to worry about, for both of us,”Michelle says. “The first player she met was Stevie Baggs and she gave him a little cancer rock. He knelt down and prayed with her and that was it – she never missed a game.”

The trio make the three-hour drive from Sturgis, Saskatchewan for each home contest and have developed a close relationship with a number of players over the years through Paige’s community work as an ambassador for both the Children’s Wish foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society.

“We are a football family, we love the CFL and we love the Riders,”Michelle says.

Paige took the ball back to the Regina hotel where the family was staying and was reluctant to let anyone get close to her new prized possession.

“So many people wanted to take pictures with it but she didn’t want to let go of it,”Michelle says. “She cuddled with it all night. This ball is special to us.”

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Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards is the founder of 3DownNation but has since wandered off. Beard in the photo not exactly as shown.