In the fall of 1996, Shafer Suggs and his wife, Susan Hoster-Suggs, thought a lot about what to name their first born.
When she was five months pregnant, Susan found out a mole on her leg contained melanoma. A sizable chunk of that leg was gone after she had the mole removed.
"It was such a difficult time," Shafer Suggs said. "But we got through it. That's why we decided to name our daughter 'Faith.' "
Faith Suggs, now a junior at Homewood-Flossmoor, understands the significance of her name.
"It shows a strong connection with my parents, and for me to stay strong," she said. "I'll also always have faith in my heart, in my mom and dad.
"She would be proud of me and my brother knowing that we have to be strong. (My name) helps me stay on the right path and always have faith."
Susan had received a clean bill of health five years after the mole was removed, and Shafer and his wife welcomed a son, Devyn.
But in October 2011, two months after discovering that the melanoma had aggressively returned throughout her body, Susan Hoster-Suggs died. She was 44.
Shafer Suggs, then 58, suddenly was in charge of raising two young children and dealing with the grief of losing his wife.
The word "faith" became the central theme in the Suggs household.
Shafer, a retired NFL player-turned-single-father, was helping guide Faith's burgeoning basketball career. He also was wrestling with a decision to move his family.
Faith Suggs was just starting to get adjusted high school life at Plainfield East when her mother died. Basketball suddenly took on a greater importance. It served as a refuge from the grief.
Suggs had a breakout freshman season on Plainfield East's varsity team. As a sophomore she averaged 13.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while her team went 24-5.
But Shafer wanted a change, a fresh start. So he said his family decided to downsize and move from Plainfield to Flossmoor.
Shafer and his family had a history with newly hired Homewood-Flossmoor girls basketball coach Anthony Smith, whom Faith had played for on the AAU circuit since eighth grade. Shafer said he viewed Smith as the ideal coach to aid in Faith's development.
"My dad and Tony have always been strong men in my life," Faith said. "It's been my goal to be a great player in college, and maybe beyond. My dad knows what it takes. He wanted to put me in the best situation to be challenged and prepare me for college.
"Coach (Smith) challenges me every day. The school is also preparing me academically for college."
Faith, who is 6-foot-2, is one of six ransfers on H-F's roster this season. The infusion of talent has thrust the Vikings into joining Marian Catholic, Rolling Meadows and Young as contenders for the Class 4A state title. Suggs scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in H-F's season-opening 91-38 win over Hillcrest on Nov. 21.
"I love the girls on the team," Faith said. "We've been doing team building and trying to find our chemistry. I think we can be really good. We have a tough schedule that will prepare us for the playoffs."
'5 chapters of my life'
Shafer Suggs used to spend his days figuring out how to tackle the likes of Walter Payton. A member of the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame, Shafer played strong safety for the New York Jets (1976-1980) and the Cincinnati Bengals (1980) during a five-year NFL career.
Shafer laughed while he talked about the "five chapters of my life." He was a two-sport athlete at Ball State. He enjoyed a professional football career in the NFL, CFL and USFL. He transitioned into life as an ex-player who worked for several big companies. He then spent an enriched life with Susan. Now he's now raising two kids.
"There's no question that this is by far the most challenging thing and rewarding thing I've been faced with in my life," said Shafer, vice president of the Chicago chapter of the NFL Players Association Former Players.
Shafer's daily duties include coaching Devyn's youth basketball team, just as he did for Faith. Dealing with the September recruiting period brought another bewildering set of experiences. Faith is ranked No. 30 by HoopGurlz.com in the Class of 2015 and has more than 24 offers.
In September she had in-home visits from Duke, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Michigan and Stanford.
Faith Suggs, 16, said she is enjoying life at her new school, concentrating on her AP classes and making friends.
She also laughed at the generational gap that her and 12-year-old Devyn face on a daily basis with their father.
"My dad's like an encyclopedia," she said. "He knows a lot of stories, mostly funny ones. We always ask him about his experiences. We're a pretty close family, like a group of best friends that always help each other."