BAYFIELD – Hayden Farmer will pull on his football jersey over his shoulder pads Friday night inside the Bayfield High School locker room. He will say a prayer and run onto the field as the quarterback of one of the best teams in the state.
When the junior lines up behind center and throws his first pass, an inevitable question will be raised somewhere in the stadium: Why is the quarterback wearing No. 45?
It’s an unusual number for a quarterback, but it is the number Farmer chose just as his sister did nearly a decade earlier.
“That’s for my sis,” Farmer said. “She passed away on March 22, 2011. That was her basketball number. I wear it to never forget her. I always have her on my back, and I know she’s up there shining down on me and my teammates.”
Hayden Farmer was in a car with his mother, Deanna, and two sisters, Aubree and Shaniah, en route to visit his father, Ryan, and family members in Texas on that late-winter day in 2011. The car rolled over in a one-car accident near Junction, Texas, and Shaniah was killed in the crash.
Deanna was unconscious after the accident and was taken to the hospital with a broken back, facial bones, collarbone and ribs.
“Hayden was fully conscious when the accident happened,” Ryan said. “He was the last one to see Shaniah breathe. He doesn’t talk a whole lot about it. He was trying to help his mom, trying to wake her up. Shaniah was thrown out of the car against a tree. There was obviously nothing he could do.”
Hayden was in fourth grade when the accident happened, and Shaniah was in seventh as a 13-year-old. She played basketball and volleyball. As Hayden looked to honor his sister, he gravitated toward No. 9 for his jersey number. He saw it as adding the 4 and 5 in Shaniah’s No. 45 to add up to nine. He still wears No. 9 in baseball, but the number was already taken when he started playing football in high school. Though the No. 45 was far from traditional for a running back, his family encouraged him to wear it anyway. Aubree is now a freshman at BHS, and she, too, wears 9 or 45 in volleyball, basketball and soccer.
Hayden also wears wristbands with Shaniah’s initials on them, and her initials can be found on his cleats and shoes during sports seasons. Many players also wear a “Shine on Shaniah” sticker that was designed by Bayfield High School math teacher Dianne Milner after Shaniah’s death. Hayden also has a knit hat with Shaniah’s initials.
“Before games, I pray by myself and with the team,” Hayden said. “I ask my sis to shine down on me and my teammates, and I know she’s always there with us.”
Hayden is a three-sport athlete at BHS. After football season, he jumps directly into basketball and then into baseball once the spring season arrives. Ryan also was a three-sport athlete who attended BHS as a freshman and sophomore before finishing high school at Nucla. The Farmers are natural athletes, and staying busy in athletics has helped Hayden in the years since Shaniah’s death. There was one weekend last spring when Farmer played basketball and baseball in the same day, and he stays busy year-round with travel teams, too.
“He takes his anger and hurt and has dealt with it through sports,” said Deanna, a fifth-generation Bayfield resident. “He says it feels like she’s with him. When he’s pitching in baseball he says he can really feel her.”
Hayden put the No. 45 in the Bayfield history books the second week of this season. He passed for six touchdowns – a new BHS single-game record – against Bloomfield in a 52-0 win. After three weeks of the season, he led the state with nine touchdown passes. Hayden always credits his teammates for his individual success.
Hayden and the Wolverines will have a chance to do something Friday night no Bayfield High School team has ever done, and that is beat the Durango High School varsity football program. BHS is 0-14-1 all time against the La Plata County rival, and the Wolverines are eager for a historic homecoming Friday night if this year’s team can accomplish a feat it was so close to a year ago when the rivalry was renewed for the first time in 80 years.
“This will be one of the best teams to ever come through Bayfield. I believe that,” Hayden said. “We have talent and heart. We’re trying to win for our hometown, our fans and our team.”
No matter what sport he plays, Hayden is one of the fiercest competitors. His only goal is to win state championships for his hometown.
“I thrive in those intense situations,” he said. “I love it. When you make the last shot or get a base hit with guys in position to score or make a touchdown in the last seconds of a game, I always love the chance to do it for my team.”
When it’s time to shine, Shaniah has Hayden’s back.