Steven C. Archer II had a passion for sports. No one who knew him would ever deny that.
He was born Feb. 21, 1989, weighing a full 8 pounds — “a fat little one,” as his mother, Stacey Archer recently described him. When other babies could barely hold up their heads, little Steven amazed his doctor by balancing his body while lying on his stomach.
Basketball. Football. Track & field. Whatever sport it was, Archer was interested. He even liked foreign soccer, his mother recalled.
“He would be looking at the game like he knew what they were saying,” she said. “He loved to watch their footwork, but he never played.”
Archer, a top prospect on UNC Charlotte’s track team, was playing basketball Feb. 2 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was three weeks and five days shy of his 20th birthday.
His death left friends and teammates stunned.
“If this would have never happened, I would not have known how many people loved him,” his mother recently told Qcitymetro.com.
Stacey Archer said she fell in love with Steven as soon as she found out she was pregnant.
“My husband and I were not trying to have a second child,” she said. “And surprise, surprise, here comes Steven…It was a good surprise.”
Steven was a quiet baby, she recalled, often content to sit and soak up his surroundings.
“People say he did not develop a loud voice because I didn’t let him cry,” his mother said.
Stacey Archer said she was always holding young Steven, barely letting his feet touch the ground. But once he climbed down, he made up for lost time.
He played basketball and football and later ran track. He developed a special bond with his father, Steven C. Archer, especially around sports.
“That will be a void in my husband’s life,” Stacey Archer said.
It was track & field where Steven found his calling.
He held high school records in the long jump and 4×100 meter relay at Stonebridge High School in Ashburn, Va.
He transferred to UNC Charlotte from Delaware State last fall and made the 49ers track team as a walk-on.
This winter, in the indoor track season, he competed in the long jump, posting a top distance of 7.01 m (23’0) at the Liberty Open — a jump that moved him into 9th place on the 49ers all-time top 10 in the event. It also landed him fourth in the league rankings this year.
Stacey Archer said her son chose UNCC because its track team knew how to win.
“They had rings,” she said. “and the [championship] rings mattered to Steven.”
Bob Olesen, the school’s track coach, said Archer worked hard in the preseason to condition himself.
“The first week of in-season training, after fall break, is when I saw his potential in the long jump firsthand,” he said. “And I knew I had made a good decision to add him to the team roster.”
Steven’s teammates admired his passion for track & field, Olsen said.
Timothy Vaught, the school’s assistant track coach, said Steven loved people as well.
“Steven was a soft-spoken guy, and he got along with everyone,” Vaught recalled. “He just had that type of personality. Everyone he met, he acted like he had known them forever.”
Christina Archer, Steven’s older sister, said her brother had an adventurous streak. She recalled a family vacation in Florida when the two of them took three buses so that they could get to a mall and shop.
”If you had a plan, he would roll with it,” she said.
Looking back, Steven’s mother said, “His urgency to get things done in his life was scary. It was like he knew something I did not know.”
On the night of Feb. 2, Stacey Archer said, she didn’t get her customary phone call from Steven. While playing a pick-up game of basketball, he had collapsed on the court. His friends frantically called for help, but he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Steven’s death, his mother said, has felt like a dream. She keeps waiting for someone to wake her up and say, “This was test and (you) passed.”