By Teresa Varley
Feature to appear on ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday, June 29 on the morning SportsCenter which starts at 10:30 am Eastern Time.
Originally printed in May
A few weeks ago the Steelers held a press conference to introduce number one draft pick Rashard Mendenhall.
On Thursday another member of the 2008 rookie class was introduced when director of football operations Kevin Colbert welcomed Akeem Havens to the team.
"We got word last week that the National Football League was going to grant us a special addition to our 2008 draft class," said Colbert. "We had to do some quick work. When researching players for the Pittsburgh Steelers we are always looking for players with high character, a great work ethic and an unmatched willingness to win. Through all of our research we came up with a great young man, Akeem Havens, the latest addition to our draft class."
A smiling Havens was then presented with his official jersey by Dan Rooney, Sr., bearing the number one and his name on the back.
It was the perfect moment for a kid who deserves nothing less.
Havens "signing" was part of a two-day visit to the Steelers made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation that is being filmed to air on ESPN as part of their "My Wish" series the week of June 29.
He spent Wednesday on a tour of Heinz Field that included seeing the press box, scoreboard room, locker room and taking the field through the same tunnel as his new "teammates."
On Thursday he received a morning tour of the team's practice facility at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex and then it was time to meet the media.
Like any other player, Havens had to face the questions from reporters, including what advice he would give to his new teammates.
"I have one piece of advice – let's try to make it an even number of Super Bowl wins," said Havens, hoping that the Steelers will get number six this year.
After a few more questions quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is Havens' favorite player, burst into the media room.
"What's going on in here?" Roethlisberger asked Havens. "We don't have time for this. We have practice. What are you doing? Do you want to go to practice? We don't have time for all of this media stuff."
And with that, a beaming Havens was off to practice, where he was introduced to the entire team prior to the start of the team's OTAs.
Havens, who was paralyzed from a car accident when he was seven, opened practice from taking a handoff from Roethlisberger but the best moment came at the end of the practice when he took another handoff and this time worked his way around the Steelers defense to score his first NFL touchdown. Roethlisberger presented him with the ball after the score and then he brought the team together for Havens to end practice.
"It puts things into perspective," said Roethlisberger of the experience. "It's great to be able to come out here and see someone like him with such energy and life. The smile that is on his face is so amazing. To think that his one wish was to come out and hang out with us is touching. So many days we come out here and don't want to be here and he wants to be here. It's awesome to help him out and put a smile on his face."
After practice Havens, along with his parents and younger brother James, had lunch and then it was off for film work, or in this case video games against Roethlisberger.
"His wish was to hang out with us so this was a no-brainer," said Roethlisberger. "I was excited to have him here. The rest of the guys were too. I think he had a great time to. It was as fun for him as it was for us."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia is a non-profit organization, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. It was founded in 1983 and serves 57 counties in western, central and northeastern Pennsylvania and 23 counties in southern West Virginia with headquarters in Pittsburgh and regional offices in Erie, Punxsutawney, Pottsville, Wilkes-Barre and York, Pa., and Charleston, W.Va. In fiscal year 2007, the Foundation fulfilled 707 wishes with the help of nearly 900 volunteers. 84.4% of all donations fund wish granting activity. Currently, the Foundation is the most active chapter in the country and has fulfilled more than 9,500 wishes. For more information on how to refer children or to volunteer, please call the Make-A-Wish Foundation at 1-800-676-9474 or visit its Web site at www.wishgreaterpa.org.