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THE CHOIRBOY
September 02, 1991
There was the devil to pay when the angelic Steve Tasker landed on the Bills' special teams
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September 02, 1991

The Choirboy

There was the devil to pay when the angelic Steve Tasker landed on the Bills' special teams

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The son of a United Methodist minister, Tasker grew up in the tiny farming community of Leoti (pop. 1,800), Kans., 35 miles east of the Colorado line. Considered too small to play football by most four-year colleges, Tasker gladly accepted a scholarship to Dodge City ( Kans.) Community College. "My freshman year I weighed in at 147 pounds," he says. "That was fully clothed with my wallet and comb in my pocket."

The coach put him on a weightlifting regimen, and Tasker became a wide receiver, kick returner and placekicker. After two seasons, he transferred to Northwestern, where he played strictly on special teams. When the Houston Oilers drafted him as a kick returner and wide receiver in the ninth round in 1985, Tasker was shocked.

"I never dreamed of playing in the NFL," he says. "I knew I had the ability, but I didn't know if I had the size and the strength."

Injuries forced him to miss 16 games in his first two seasons. He was about to be activated from injured reserve late in 1986, but the Oilers first had to sneak him through waivers. Levy, who had been named the Bills' coach three days before, snatched up Tasker to bolster his special teams. Tasker's career took off from there. Last season he even saw spot duty at wide receiver. Both of his catches, covering 24 and 20 yards, went for touchdowns.

Tasker is aware of the harsh realities that face special teams players. After both the 1988 and '89 seasons, the Bills left him unprotected during the Plan B free-agency period. Back then the future seemed so uncertain that Tasker sold his 16-acre farm in Colden, N.Y., 45 minutes from downtown Buffalo, and bought a house closer to town, figuring it would be easier to unload if he had to move to another NFL city.

To his surprise, the Bills protected him during the Plan B period following Super Bowl XXV. "I always thought it was kind of silly to protect me," he says. "I didn't think I could be that valuable to a team."

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