Dave Stevens, who was born without his legs, is a seven time Emmy Award winner who has had a 19 year career at ESPN. In 2013, Stevens was by the Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team as a nonmilitary recruit to help motivate the veterans and able bodied athletes and has played quarterback and defense. (Photo courtesy of Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team)Ever had a bad day in the office? That’s what Marine Corps Cpl. Jeremy Stengel calls Jan. 31, 2007, or the day he was blown 35 yards from his Humvee after an explosion during a tour in Iraq. In a medical induced coma for nine weeks, doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of survival.
His left leg was amputated below the knee, his lower right leg lost muscle and nerve function.Cheap Jerseys from china But none of that keeps Stengel from terrorizing NFL Alumni as a defensive end on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team.
On Feb. Armed Forces who lost limbs while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan as the WWAFT takes on San Francisco’s NFL alumni.
“It’s going to be one for the ages,” said Stengel, who will fly in from Wisconsin for his fifth Super Bowl weekend appearance with the WWAFT.
The RSVP list continues to grow and includes former 49ers such as linebacker Bill Romanowski, fullback William Floyd and running back Bill Ring, who attended nearby Carlmont High in Belmont and was an all state member of the 1976 CSM football team.
Add to that, just to name a few, 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, Rams Hall of Famers Jack Youngblood and Jackie Slater, Vietnam War veteran Rocky Bleier (Steelers) and Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer, a member of the first two Super Bowl champions.”Truth be told, there will be not be a place in San Francisco where there are more NFL stars in one place at the same time to meet and greet the public,” said Chris Visser, the event’s operation director. “Because one thing that these NFL alumni have shown a willingness to do is to a man, they respect the service and sacrifice of our wounded warrior amputees.”
As far as celebrities, it’s hard to overshadow Snoop Dogg, whose father served in Vietnam. His inaugural appearance at last year’s WWAFT event prior to the Super Bowl in Arizona helped draw over 10,000 fans to the flag football game.
“It was kind of a shocker to hear that Snoop Dogg was going to be there,” Stengel said. “I listened to his music when I was a kid, and still do. So, I mean, having celebrities jump on board now is a huge boost in awareness for our team and all the veteran organizations that we raise money for when we go out to these cities.”One avid supporter is Chris Draft, a 13 year NFL veteran out of Stanford, where as a senior linebacker in 1997 he led the Cardinal in tackles. The 39 year old hasn’t missed any games since jumping on board following the WWAFT’s debut more than five years ago prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
So why does he keep coming back?
“You get to see the greatness of football,” Draft said. “So many people see the game through the NFL, but the game is so much bigger than that. The game is teamwork, it is perseverance, it’s challenge, it’s obstacles. It allows you to find your limits and push yourself. And, I think, with these games I get to play side by side with wounded warriors, who have given their lives and given parts of their bodies for our freedom.
“And most of them would in a hot second go back to active duty. They’re competitors, they’re fighters, they’re warriors. So to be able to play with guys like that, it’s tremendous.”
Landing at CSM
The event isn’t run by the NFL. Instead, Visser co founded the WWAFT with retired Army Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey.
“This team was created to visibly demonstrate, illustrate that the loss of a limb doesn’t mean the end of an active life,” Visser said.
The older brother of Lesley Visser, a sportscaster for CBS and the only woman to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he flew out unannounced to CSM almost a week after last year’s Super Bowl for a site survey of College Heights Stadium, located one exit away on Highway 92 from Serra High, the old stomping grounds of NFL stars Tom Brady and Lynn Swann.
“I stopped immediately,” said Visser, a sports producer who will be working his 30th Super Bowl next month. “This is it. We have never had a more spectacular and fitting venue for one of our games ever. This is an incredibly inspiring game and this is an incredibly inspiring venue. On top of free autograph and photo opportunities, raffles will include 49ers, Raiders and NFL autographed jerseys, helmets and footballs.
Plans were also in the works for pregame workouts between local high school players alongside the wounded warriors and NFL alumni.
“We will have a walk through that morning,” Visser said. “But that’s really our practice, much to the dismay of Kenny Mayne and Snoop Dogg and a couple of the guys on the team, who would like us to practice for the whole week.”
The halftime show will include a performance by Marlisa, winner of X Factor Australia’s sixth season in 2014. The 16 year old will sing the hit song “Titanium” and has a video tribute for the WWAFT available on YouTube, which is produced with her title winning song “Stand by You.”
“The beauty of this thing, as you can kind of gather from what Chris is saying, is at the Super Bowl we all become kind of passive participants,” CSM athletic director Andreas Wolf said. “This is interactive. This is bringing people onto this campus and engaging with our veterans, with NFL alumni and kind of getting some sweat and shaking hands and being able to run on the field with them.”