ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew has seen its share of All-Pros this season, but there isn’t an NFL player who has impressed them more than Zach Stinson.
A 23-year-old U.S. Marine Sgt. from Chambersburg, Pa., Stinson was honored, along with other military veterans, by the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago on MNF in a special pre-game National Anthem ceremony.
In anticipation of covering that event, MNF producer Jay Rothman wanted to ensure his production team understood the importance of Veterans Day.
“I reached out to the Steelers community relations office to arrange a special visitor to address our Monday morning production meeting and offer perspective,” he said.
“I didn’t tell anyone about it because I wanted it to be a surprise.”
After discussing the X’s and O’s and reviewing all the graphics for the MNF game, Rothman quietly slipped out of the hotel meeting room.
Minutes later, he returned with Stinson.
The wounded veteran, who lost both legs, his right thumb and parts of his left thumb and two fingers while leading his squad on a foot patrol in Afghanistan almost two years earlier to the day, made his way into room with his wife, Tesa, and Rothman.
“When the doors swung open and we saw Zach walking up with his prosthetic legs, everyone in the room — all two dozen people — got on their feet and gave him a 90-second standing ovation,” said associate producer Rob Adamski.
“There were tears welling up in peoples’ eyes. Not a word was spoken. It was just very powerful. . . very moving.”
Graphics/playback director Aladdin Freeman added: “Zach is 23 now and his life is changed because of what happened in Afghanistan, but his outlook is still very positive.”
Stinson made such an impact that Rothman invited him and Tesa to be ESPN’s special guests in Philadelphia tonight for the Carolina Panthers-Philadelphia Eagles game (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“His visit meant so much to our group in Pittsburgh,” said Rothman.
“He’s a wonderful person and a guy who’s looking to restart his life and his career. I admire him for his fight and his unbelievable attitude, and we can’t wait to show him a good time this week.”
ESPN’s Allie Stoneberg contributed to this story