2015 Rare Disease Champion Finalist: Greg Stevens, Eastern Illinois University


Each of the six finalists for the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award will be featured here. In order to cast your online vote to help determine the 2015 Rare Disease Champion, you can visit our voting page. The winner will be announced February 1.

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News

(Photo: Jason Howell, Daily Eastern News)

GREG STEVENS

University: Eastern Illinois University

Vitals: Offensive Coordinator

Quick Hits: A 1992 graduate of Eastern Oregon, Stevens played quarterback in college at Snow Junior College in Utah before finishing up at Eastern Oregon. … First coaching job was right out of college at Mesa State. … This was his first season at Eastern Illinois. … Served as the offensive coordinator at Southeastern Louisiana where in 2013 the Lions had one of the top 10 total and scoring offenses in the FCS and reached the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs.

A long-time coaching kinship that blossomed into a friendship was re-united just months before Greg Stevens found out he had a rare disease. One of his closest friends in the coaching fraternity, EIU head coach Kim Dameron, was there to help his friend, and offensive coordinator, endure through six months of treatment together. His diligence inspired the team and the rest of the coaching staff.

INSIDE THE STORY

Stevens and Dameron met more than a decade ago when each was a coordinator at Stephen F. Austin.

Dameron had already been on staff for one season as the defensive coordinator when Stevens was brought on to coordinate the offense in 2001.

Stevens’ wife Amy and Dameron’s wife Debbie also became friends and one of Dameron’s daughters babysat the Stevens’ kids.

The next four years a friendship was created on the field working together and off-the-field as the two families spent time together. Each went their separate ways in 2005, but when Dameron was hired as the head coach at EIU, he made call to Stevens looking to see if his old friend wanted to be his offensive coordinator.

Even though he was comfortable running the offense at SLA, the call of an old friend was enough to get him to leave the south and head to Charleston, Ill.

THE RARE JOURNEY

Only months after taking over as the offensive coordinator at a new school, Stevens was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s large B-cell lymphoma in June.

Cancer is always a scary word to hear and any form of chemotherapy will take a physical and mental toll, but you can still perform a job on a limited basis in most cases.

Stevens had an offense to run for a new team. And even though his friend was the head coach, he still wanted to do his job to the best of his ability.

Chemotherapy started right away and lasted until early October. But Stevens made sure he didn’t miss a single practice or Eastern Illinois game while undergoing treatment.

After the season, he underwent a bone marrow transplant, because despite good scans recently a patient with Stevens’ rare disease has an 85 percent reoccurrence rate if they don’t undergo a bone marrow transplant.

WHAT THEY SAID

“It was a blessing. Kim was so good about everything. Luckily, I was able to do all my chemo treatments and still work.” – Greg Stevens

“It’s kind of like brothers, you don’t have to talk all the time to keep that commonality, that bond. I’ve defended a lot of people, and because of that I knew his offense was the kind of offense I wanted to run. It just so happens that one of my best friends knows how to do it.” – Eastern Illinois head coach Kim Dameron

“Of course when you first hear that you have something like this, it’s tough. But I was more concerned about my family and what it would be like on them. I wasn’t as worried about me. The chemo treatments were tough during the season, especially the week after. I had to change the way I coached a little more, because physically I wasn’t able to do some things I was used to doing without thinking in the past.” – Greg Stevens

Cast your vote for the 2015 Rare Disease Champion!

4 thoughts on “2015 Rare Disease Champion Finalist: Greg Stevens, Eastern Illinois University

  1. The SC community have you and your family in our thoughts and prayers Coach.

  2. Coach Stevens I don’t know if you see these but you are the true Champion in my eyes and so many others. Your story is so inspiring and uplifting.

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