Written by Rich Forestano Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00
Success didn’t come easy for Billy Stevens. The standout New Hyde Park defenseman has seen his share of setbacks, but nothing kept him from achieving his ultimate goal: a scholarship to a Division-I college soccer program.
Stevens recently committed to the University of Michigan to play soccer next year, but the road to Ann Arbor tested his resolve and it paid off. His strength comes from his family. Being adopted at birth, he feels the main priority is to make them proud.
“My family drives me the most because I just want to do good for them,” Stevens said. “I appreciate the game a lot more and I understand that not everything is given to you. You have to work hard. Sometimes things get taken away, but it’s about how you bounce back. It defines the player you are.”
Stevens tore his ACL last December and felt his scholarship opportunities might be in jeopardy, but coaches at Michigan assured him that they were committed to Stevens.
“I went into rehab the day after surgery and the doctors told me I’d be back on the field in five months,” he said. “I did everything they told me to do. I pushed through the tough times; emotional times.”
Setbacks hit Stevens early in his career, as he suffered a stress fracture in his lower back that put him out for three months in 2011. He had to work his way back to become a starter for the U16 New York Red Bulls.
“I was pushing myself as hard as I can,” he said. “I wanted my family to be extremely proud of me.”
Stevens faced another injury earlier that year with surgery to his broken wrist in ninth grade that has caused him to be inactive for most of New Hyde Park Memorial High School’s season.
The wrist injury was a big blow to Stevens, because he had gotten the chance to play alongside his brother John. But it was cut short.
“We played on varsity a couple years together before I had to stop playing for the school,” he said.
Stevens played with the New Hyde Park Wildcats until he was 11 before being scouted to the U.S. National Soccer Team a few years later. From there, he made his first appearance on the U14 New York Red Bulls with coach Bob Montgomery.
“The biggest strength of Billy is his character,” said Montgomery. “He’s had a number of setbacks but the qualities that he brings to the team as a leader is amazing. Michigan’s got themselves a great player.”
Stevens also owes former coach and current trainer Steve Price for this success. Price starting coaching Billy when he was 13.
“Billy was always the best athlete on the field,” Price said. “Some kids, when they are really good, they rest on their laurels. Not Billy. He practiced more than anyone else and worked harder. This is where it got him.”
Aside from Michigan, Stevens garnered interest from Stony Brook, St. John’s and Seton Hall universities as well as Wake Forest, Columbia and Kentucky. He chose Ann Arbor because of its dedication to winning. Stevens plans to study physical therapy.
“When I visited Michigan, the atmosphere that they have for the athletes and their vision to win, they really want a national championship for soccer,” he said.