Saturday, March 1, 2014

Chris Niskanen motivated by passing of his great-grandmother


Hadise Açıkgöz, the great-grandmother of 
Mitakihara Magi strong safety Chris Niskanen on his mother's side.

Chris Niskanen motivated by passing of his great-grandmother

By Kotone Noda
The Daily Magi
November 11, 2064

When Mitakihara Magi strong safety Chris Niskanen heard of the passing of his great-grandmother on her mother's side, Hadise Açıkgöz, before summer training camp, he asked head football coach Tatsuya Kaname if he could be excused to attend her funeral. After he granted the request, Niskanen took a plane to Antwerp, and as he arrived at the mortuary in the nearby town of Mol, he broke down as he embraced her open casket, all alone.

Hadise, a famous singer, entertainer and writer, was 77 at the time of her passing, and as Niskanen looked at her great-grandmother through the tracks of his tears, he was determined to keep living for her and to achieve his dreams as a football player.

"My great-grandmother always told me to live your life the way you want to live it," said Niskanen, who is also the great-grandson of Olympian cross-country skier Iivo Niskanen on his father's side. "She told me that I need to chase my dreams, realize them and once I did, I could reach the top like she did when she was young.

"I could have been a singer and I could have been a skier, but I chose football because it was a game that my father and I were used to watching and playing. Our family cheers for the Phoenix Coyotes and we are season ticket holders because it's much cooler than having to suffer in the heat playing basketball. When I looked at Grandma Hadise for the last time, I whispered close to her, 'Grandma, I will live for you, because your spirit is in me. And I will do my best.'"

Born in Fountain Hills, AZ to Ilmatar and Jennifer Niskanen, Chris Niskanen learned the game of football from rising through the Pop Warner ranks at the age of seven. In high school, Niskanen was the leader of the defense for the Fountain Hills Falcons under head coach McKeen "Mack" Fairfield. The Falcons, in Niskanen's senior season, went unbeaten and won the state championship. He finished his career with the most tackles (234), most interceptions (60) and most sacks (56.5).

While he will be seeing limited playing time due to senior Richard Aquino being the starter for the next two games, Niskanen believes that next year will be his time to shine.

"Coach Kaname, Coach Kanda and Coach Kujou are telling me that I will be a starter next year if I keep my mind and body focused," Niskanen said. "And now that my grandmother has left this earth, I will be more focused to give honor to her legacy. For the rest of my playing career, I have a mission: to make Great-Grandma Hadise and the world proud."

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