Heart-felt situation

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The highlight of Steven Marsh's day is talking to his little boy on the phone.

After playing a major role in a patchwork Edmonton Eskimo defensive unit that kept the Toronto Argos to just 13 points on Thanksgiving Day, Marsh is also talking to the media this week about his performance on the field replacing veteran cornerback Davis Sanchez.

But nothing is better than having a conversation with his four-year-old son, who's living thousands of kilometres away in Tennessee.

That is not a surprising fact -- but the story behind Marsh's youngster is definitely surprising.

In fact, it's no wonder the Eskimos linebacker is drawing inspiration from little Steven Takaree Marsh.

In just four years, Karee -- which is his name around his home in Knoxville -- has had three open-heart surgeries.

But unless the tyke pulled up his shirt to politely show you -- which he has been known to do -- you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at him today.

"I consider myself blessed," said Marsh yesterday morning. "He is full of energy.

"He was up (in Edmonton) for the B.C. game (in September) and he was in the living room the whole week just tossing the football back and forth."

AMAZING TURNAROUND

It's an amazing turnaround from the summer of 2001, when Karee had his first open-heart operation just 60 days after being born.

"There was a chance he may not wake up or he would suffer seizures or be brain dead," remembered Karee's mom Tyangela Sanders while on the phone from Knoxville yesterday.

For an unknown reason, Karee was born with two holes in his heart and missing a valve.

Two more surgeries followed, but today he's like a normal boy, loving sports and music.

"When he was up here I was listening to a CD by Kanye West and there was one song on there that was about strive and hope," remembered Marsh.

"I was just flipping through the CD and he was yelling in the back: 'Keep it there, keep it there. Let me listen to that one.'

"I didn't really pay that much attention to that when he was here but after he left I thought this little guy must hear something in that song.

"It is inspiration for me. I try to feed off him."

The Saskatchewan Roughriders -- the Eskimos' opponent Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium -- feed off the run and starting tailback Kenton Keith will see Marsh back at his regular linebacker position.

However, the question remains: How long will Marsh patrol the field for the Eskimos?

A WINDOW TO ESCAPE

In his sophomore year in the CFL, the former University of Tennessee star has a window to escape to the NFL during the winter -- and there is definitely interest from American teams.

"I would love to come back and play for Edmonton," said Marsh, who could return next year, as there is an option clause in his current contract.

But obviously there are family and financial reasons to consider.

Karee was born when Marsh and Sanders were still in school.

"I have never been in a situation when I can own a home and get married," continued 26-year-old Marsh.

"I am just going to weigh my options (in the off-season)."

At the moment, though, the focus is on helping the Eskimos advance to the Grey Cup game in Vancouver in November.

If that becomes a reality, he is hoping to fly his girlfriend and Karee north to see the biggest game of his professional career.

"I just want (Steven) to spend time with Takaree," said Sanders, "because that little boy loves football."

About as much as dad loves his determined and gutsy little boy.


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