Most of his ESPN colleagues knew Wednesday was going to be special for assignment desk manager Dave Stevens.
None of them could have guessed it would include Stevens upstaging the legendary disco group, the Village People, during last night’s “America’s Heroes Tribute & Challenge” flag football game in New Jersey featuring The Wounded Warrior Amputees versus The 9/11 First Responders and NFL Alumni.
“At halftime, my buddies from Village People stopped their show and allowed me to propose to my girlfriend, Kim,” said Stevens, a congenital amputee who played in the game. “She was blown away and said ‘Yes,’ because she did not want to be booed by 3,000 angry fans.”
Stevens helped organize the charity event, including booking the halftime entertainment.
“I am privileged to be a part of such a wonderful organization as Wounded Warriors, even though I didn’t serve,” Stevens said. “I got the Village People to perform — I am friends with them, have been a fan since I was a kid and have been to 21 concerts — so they waived their five-figure appearance fee as a favor to me. I coordinated the proposal just before “YMCA.” They were the only ones to know.”
SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne, who played in the game with Stevens, watched on in surprise – and joy – along with the thousands of fans.
“Kenny joined us as an honorary amputee for the game as he almost lost his leg due to many surgeries from his leg injuries during his college football days at UNLV,” Stevens said. “We had fun in the backfield and teamed up on a couple of TDs.”
It was a day filled with fun for Stevens and his now-fiancee.
“Yesterday morning, Kim and I were walking by the Good Morning America studios in Manhattan,” Stevens said. “I was friendly with [GMA co-hosts] Josh [Elliott] and Robin [Roberts] when they were at ESPN and they saw me through the window on the corner of the street, and in the midst of a live show they waved us in. We didn’t go on TV, but hung around with them and caught up.”
Stevens needed to wait only a few hours to make his GMA appearance this morning, however, when Elliot slipped a clip from the game into GMA’s daily highlight segment.
Stevens, who played minor league baseball for the St. Paul Saints in 1996 and played varsity football, baseball and wrestled at Augsburg College, is the only athlete to play college football or minor league baseball without legs. In March, he will join the Tampa Rays for Spring Training at Port Charlotte, Fla. at the invite of manager Joe Maddon. (Stevens already has his share of big league experience.)
“Louisville Slugger is even creating personalized bats for me,” he says.
Even that can’t measure up to last night’s halftime, Stevens said.
“It was one of the most amazing nights of my life!”
Outside the Lines devoted Wednesday’s show to the Wounded Warrior initiative, discussing the game with team co-captains BJ Ganem and Dan Lesko, as well as former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier (U.S. Army) and former New York Giant Phil McConkey (USNA).