I was at Gully’s one night and bumped into Carmine DiGivione, we had gone to High School together and he had been playing Rugby for U of Illinois. I was a month or two into transferring to Illinois and was honestly lost in the size of the school. I almost regard that night as a hallucination, as after that night I never saw Carmine again. In my vision Carmine told me to show up on Saturday and well, I did and somehow played in a C side game. Borrowed shoes, shirt and jersey. The team welcomed me and that was that.

My relationship with Steve: First and foremost, what I love about Steve is his discipline and ability to lead. With that said, most of my stories would be about me undermining him and trying to cause chaos. (In a loving way.) Our tour to England he had created a rule book and hierarchy of command. Quickly we developed a splinter group (the NMLF) and spent the tour making Steve Crazy. With that said, Steve loved us unconditionally (hopefully) and even when we tested him to his limit, he would (I assume this) count to 10, or in my case 1000 before reacting. He was always genuinely trying to help me from my own self destruction. No matter what I did, I had a place. Probably the first time in my life I had ever had a family like that, insert long story about messed up childhood, self destruction and lack of direction here. Steve always wanted the best for me. Even if I didn’t see the forest for the trees.

I remember being at a tournament in Charleston, IL and a discussion with Steve trying to get me to join the National Guard. I had told him about my Uncle who was my hero, an airborne ranger with multiple tours and how as a child my ambition was to be like my uncle. Steve kept saying you could still do it. I loved Steve’s positivity, but I was about 27 at this time and even I knew my limitations. If I joined the Army i would have had the best arms from push ups… or been accidentally killed in a training exercise. These are best case scenarios.

When Steve served in Afghanistan my admiration only grew larger for him. My oldest daughter was about 4 years old and we would go to the store and find stuff to send to him. It was important for me to tell her about his sacrifice, friendship and to do what we could to let him know he was in our thoughts and prayers.

When he got back he gave me a flag from the base. It still sits in my living room proudly displayed. Anytime someone asks about it, I tell them about a friend I met playing Rugby, that served our country and I could only wish to be a tenth of the person he is, it reminds me to be humble and to try to count to ten before reacting. (Still only get to about 3… baby steps) Last but not least, how lucky I was that the night Carmine DiGivione mysteriously appeared helped direct me towards a person like Steve.

In the thoughts and prayers of my family. God Bless.

Jeff (Formerly the Rugger known as Neumann)