Stefan Logan: Running Down a Dream

Stefan Logan will run for his life in 4 1/2 seconds. That’s the average flight time of an NFL punt.

For a human, Stefan Logan is small. For an NFL player, he’s an implausible 5 feet 6 inches, and weighs 180 pounds. If he weren’t wearing the famous black jersey and gold spandex, you might mistake him for a halftime Punt, Pass and Kick contestant who accidentally wandered back onto the field.

As the footsteps of his Carolina Panthers pursuers echo louder, Logan squints up into the neon fog, just one of 70,000 stargazers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., waiting for the football to fall back to earth. What happens next could change his life. But Logan’s road to this moment (Sept. 3, 2009) was lined with potholes and detours that would make PennDOT blush.

“I was too scared to play football in high school,” Logan admits. “But all the neighborhood kids used to play on the streets of Miami—two-hand touch on the concrete and tackle if you went into the grass.” Dodging pastel convertibles, pedestrians and palm trees, Logan and his friends would play all day after school.

Logan’s brother finally convinced him to try out for the team at Jackson High School during his junior year. After just one season of organized football, Logan graduated from high school and got a full ride to Real World University, where he worked alongside his father in a mortuary preparing bodies for medical research at the University of Miami. “My first day, my stomach was twisting and turning so bad,” he remembers. “We took a break for lunch, and I couldn’t even look at food. But after a while, it became just like any other job.”

And so it went. Wake up. Work. Sleep. Repeat. He dreamed of college football, but without the chance of a scholarship, Logan had bigger concerns. Like bills. He took side jobs unloading boxes at a warehouse and packaging radios at a Motorola factory.
In 2003, when Ben Roethlisberger was taking the NCAA by storm and rookie Troy Polamalu was giving NFL defensive coordinators stress wrinkles, Logan was bagging groceries at Publix.

Then one night, in the fluorescent wash of the checkout aisle, he got an idea. “I decided to make a highlight reel,” Logan says. “My father bought me a second VCR so I could dub the tape, and we sent it to a bunch of colleges.”

After months of waiting, the phone finally rang. A recruiter stumbled upon the tape and was intrigued by Logan’s speed. He was on a flight to Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota, almost before his cashier’s apron could hit the floor.

The mixtape merely earned him an invitation to walk-on tryouts along with a handful of intramural all stars and also-rans. He was supposed to be a tackling dummy. At best, he was supposed to be Rudy (a true story about a walk-on at Notre Dame that became a movie). Logan had other plans. He didn’t just make the team: The pint-sized running back finished his four-year career with the seventh most yards in Division II history.

Despite incredible statistics, scouts saw only one number that mattered: Logan’s height. Shortly after going undrafted, he was cut from the New York Giants’ practice squad  after team doctors discovered a lingering injury.

“I flew back to Miami to be with my family,” he says. “I cried. I told my mother that I didn’t want to play football anymore.” It was a good run. No one could blame Logan for quitting. For being realistic. Except for his mother. “God has a plan,” Arbedella Logan told her son. “Just keep fighting.”

Logan borrowed airfare money from his mother and re-enrolled in classes at USD. After lectures, he ran sprints under the moonlight to stay in shape—just in case.

With his NFL prospects dwindling, the Miami boy headed to the only place colder than South Dakota: Canada. After an outstanding year with the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions, at age 28, Logan finally got the phone call that led him to the most important moment of his life—this moment: Hello, Stefan? Pittsburgh Steelers here.

Logan’s first thought:  ‘Can’t wait to call my momma.’

Categories: Sports