For hundreds of high school football players across the country, signing a National Letter of Intent for a scholarship to an NCAA Division 1 college program is a dream come true.
Dan Stevenson isn’t one of those guys.
Stevenson didn’t play youth football with aspirations of reaching the college level. He never imagined such a scenario through most of his career at St. Joseph’s Prep.
“It’s not something I even thought about,” Stevenson said.
On Wednesday, Stevenson will be one of several athletes from across the Philadelphia area to put pen to paper during the second signing day for college football.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound tight end and H-back will commit to Duquesne University, an NCAA Division 1 FCS program in Pittsburgh that competes in the Northeast Conference with the likes of Central Connecticut, Robert Morris and Sacred Heart.
But Stevenson’s story is unique: He was a part-time player for the state champion Hawks, a team-first, dirty-work guy who loved being part of the prestigious program. He never expected to earn scholarship money.
“I didn’t think it possibly could happen,” Stevenson said Monday in a telephone interview. “It’s really awesome. It just goes to show what hard work can do.”
St. Joseph’s Prep coach Tim Roken said Stevenson was honored by his teammates with the Father Taggart Unsung Hero Award at the program’s annual banquet on Friday.
“He’s a young man who maybe doesn’t show up in the stat sheet much,” Roken said of Stevenson. “But every day he comes out to work, and the rest of the guys know how important he is to our offense and being successful.”
Roken said Stevenson is as representative of the program as some of the Hawks’ nationally recognized players with offers from major colleges.
“The people that don’t know the program think we just have all these names. We have [Marvin] Harrison, [Kyle] McCord, the [Jeremiah and Josiah] Trotters. All those guys,” Roken said. “That’s not what this program was built on. Football is what they do. It’s not who they are.
“And that’s a great metaphor in terms of Dan. Through his years here, nobody might have been pointing him out saying, ‘He’s the big guy on the football team’ but he plays a humongous role.
“He’s been a great leader for us, and he’s going to be a great ambassador for our program.”
Stevenson finished his senior season with five catches for 99 yards. He saw a little less time with the regular offense as sophomore tight end Maurice Clark, who caught 19 passes for 278 yards, emerged as a receiving threat in November and December.
But Stevenson still saw action in some sets, contributed on special teams and remained fully committed to the Hawks’ success, even on the sideline.
“It was a little tough not being in the game at times,” Stevenson said. “But I know how important it was to cheer on the guys who were playing because they would do the same for me if I was in the game and they were on the sideline.
“I wanted to stay engaged, just support the team in any way that I could.”
Stevenson attended St. Monica’s school around 16th and Porter. He played CYO football for the Mt. Carmel Warriors.
Stevenson didn’t hear from Duquesne coaches until after the season. The Hawks’ senior and his father, a retired law-enforcement official, visited Duquesne during Martin Luther King Day weekend.
A South Philly guy through and through, Stevenson said he loved the school’s inner-city campus and its connection to the Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Stevenson, who said he will be the first person in his immediate family to attend college, hopes to become a nurse anesthetist.