Eric Stevens, the former NFL player turned firefighter who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a new father. On Tuesday, Stevens announced that he and his wife welcomed their daughter, Peyton James, last week. He posted a photo of her on Instagram, and she was wrapped in a pink blanket. In the Instagram post, Stevens wrote: "The sweetest angel in all the lands. Peyton James. 1/5/21."
Stevens was diagnosed with ALS in August 2019, one month after he married his longtime girlfriend, Amanda. There is no cure for the disease and it typically claims the lives of those diagnosed within three to five years. When Stevens' football career came to an end, he joined the Los Angeles Fire Department in 2015. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help support the Stevens family, and over $1.2 million has been raised.
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In an interview with PEOPLE in August, Stevens talked about how excited he is to be a dad. “It’s such a gift, and we feel very fortunate and grateful that we’re able to enjoy this moment because there’s times where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to, or if I was going to be around to have kids," he said. "And so the fact that we’re able to make it extra special, and makes her, the baby, extra special, too."
Stevens was a member of the St. Louis Rams practice squad (now Los Angeles Rams) in 2013. He was cut by the team one month into the regular season and then moved on to being a firefighter. Before joining the NFL, Stevens played 35 games for the University of California-Berkley as a fullback. When he was a true freshman in 2008, Stevens rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries. In his senior year in 2012, Stevens rushed for 51 yards on 13 carries and caught nine passes for 55 yards.
"We had a conversation like, 'We shouldn’t let this diagnosis or this illness dictate what we do. We can’t let it take over our lives,'" Stevens' wife Amanda told PEOPLE. "'Let’s just continue to live how we would want to live.' If it happens, then it’s meant to be. So it was meant to be."