To a high school quarterback in his senior year, a football scholarship to a Division I college means a bright future—maybe even a pro career. In 2012, that was the future of Sam Riddle of Century High School in Portland, Oregon. He’d turned his high school team around and earned a shot on a bigger stage, and the University of North Dakota offered it.
Then Sam learned his girlfriend, Briahnna Krokum, was pregnant. The door to Sam’s bright future seemed about to slam shut. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to college, and his dad would be so disappointed in him.
In an interview with the Oregonian last month, Sam recalled that day two years ago. “I almost passed out,” he said. “I thought about not graduating from high school, not graduating from college, working at a minimum-wage job the rest of my life. I thought of the worst—I am going to be the joke of the school.”
They told no one except Sam’s best friend. Sam and Bri didn’t doubt their love for each other, and in their minds abortion was never an option. But they had to make a decision. Secretly they wrote down pros and cons, one list for adoption and one for parenting.
Finally, they had to tell their parents. Sam’s dad—thinking about what Sam would lose—pushed for abortion. Other family members and friends weighed in, advocating either for abortion or adoption.
But Sam and Bri had already done their pros and cons. They had secretly decided to keep the baby and raise him together.
In January 2013 Sam and his dad traveled to the University of North Dakota, home of the Fighting Sioux. In his heart Sam knew he wanted to refuse and return home. But when the time came, with this dad right there, he couldn’t get the words out. Instead, he accepted the scholarship.
Mason Riddle was born May 28, 2013. Sam cut the cord himself. “It was the best moment of my life,” he said. Friends and family rallied around them, and any thought of adoption and abortion was long gone. On July 25, Sam proposed to Bri and she said yes.
Three days later, Sam left for North Dakota. Before the end of his first week there, he was on the phone to Linfield College, a small Division III school near home that offered no scholarships. Against his dad’s advice, he signed away his UND scholarship and all that might have been. “I’m coming home,” he said.
As Sam prioritized his new family and shouldered his responsibilities, his dad came to a deeper level of pride in the man his son had chosen to be. Financial aid and a part-time job helped pay Sam’s way at Linfield, and by his sophomore year he was again a star quarterback. But for Sam, that title doesn’t even come close to the one Mason calls him: “Daddy.”
In a culture that thrives on the allure of fame, money and unaccountability, Sam made a choice that’s probably incomprehensible to many. He sacrificed it all for the sake of something much more important and a greater calling. He and Bri not only chose life for Mason but also committed themselves to each other as a family.
As Christmas approaches, I’m reminded of another man more than 2,000 years ago who also made a difficult choice about a mother and a baby. Joseph could have cut and run but he didn’t. When men commit themselves to stand for life and for their families, they experience blessings far greater than wealth and fame.