Sunday’s SC Featured segment on ESPN SportsCenter will tell the remarkable story of Sgt. Kevin Downs, who nearly lost his life in a 2005 Humvee attack in Iraq. Now, 76 surgeries later, he’s a paid assistant football coach at the high school in Kingston Springs, Tenn., where he once played.
“The Volunteer,” narrated by Marty Smith, will debut in the 10 a.m. edition of SportsCenter and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
As viewers will learn, Downs lost both legs, some fingers, an ear and the use of an arm in the attack. But he drives a car. He operates a tractor to mow the football field, and he helps paint lines on the field before games. He climbs to the top of the bleachers for games and keeps stats on an iPad. He works with the players.
“He spends his whole day doing all these things, and you just kind of sit there and are amazed because of how gruesome his injuries were,” said Scott Harves, who produced the piece for the ESPN Features Unit.
Harves came across Downs on the Internet while searching for feature ideas last August.
“I just thought there had to be more to the story,” he said. “The first time you see him, you just wonder how he does it, and how he got from the battlefield to where he is now. When I saw his picture and heard him talk, I was drawn to want to know more about it.
“One of the things that stands out about our first conversation was the fact that he didn’t want to hold anything back in a story,” Harves said. “Knowing what he went through and seeing all the wounded warriors he had seen through his three years in and out of the hospital, he always thought that if someone could see what he’s done with his life, maybe he can motivate them to do something with theirs.
“No one could blame him if he wanted to sit on a couch the rest of his life, watch football and do nothing, but he chose to get up and do something.
“The head coach [Doug Loope] put it best,” Harves said. “He said it reduces the amount of whiners they have on their football team. When you see a guy like Kevin do what he does, it’s hard to complain about anything. Certainly for any coach or any sports team that can be sort of a clichéd thing, but for Kevin, in all facets of life, it’s really incredible.”