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You might think professional athletes are in a different world, but one local man who played professional basketball is about as down to earth as it gets.

Steve Hamer is hard to miss. At seven feet tall, he was made to play basketball.

This story begins in Grand Junction, Tennessee where Steve was born. He's the baby of the family with five older brothers, but small he is not.

"There's no one in my family that's tall at all. I was always very unique," said Steve.

And he was always good at sports. "My first love was actually baseball," he said. "I got to be 6'5" in the sixth grade and at that point everyone's looking up and thinking 'I think you're in the wrong sport.'"

He started to pursue basketball aggressively through high school and that led to college ball.

"I received my first letter from the University of Tennessee, Wade Houston. I'll never forget that. I started getting calls from different coaches around the country and I'm thinking 'what do they know about me?'" recalled Steve.

He got calls from coaches. He got hundreds of letters from different schools, but he chose the University of Tennessee.

"God really blessed me and gave me the opportunity to play at the University of Tennessee. We didn't win a lot of games when I was here, but I wouldn't trade that experience for playing for the big orange for anything," he said.

One moment in orange stood out during his last game with the Vols. "I'll never forget there was a packed house and I looked up at the third level and there was a lady that had sheets, that had like a king size set of sheets and she'd written on the sheets and it said 'Thank you, Steve. We love you.' And that meant so much to me," said Steve.

Despite his rise in the basketball ranks throughout his life, Steve faced criticism.

"You go to college and you have those same people that tell you, 'He doesn't run fast enough. He's got an awkward gait. He doesn't have a great shot,'" said Steve. "You tuck that away and you want to prove those naysayers wrong. It's not about what people say about you, it's how you feel about yourself."

And he proved them wrong alright!

"To hear June 26th, 1996 that the commissioner says the Boston Celtics select Steve Hamer with the 38th pick of the draft, it was unbelievable," he said.

And onto the Celtics he went. "It was such an eye opening experience because I wasn't used to that kind of life and if you don't get accustomed to that it can really bring you down quickly," said Steve. "My parents did such a good job of bringing me up to be a grounded individual, to make sure that you love God first, and you take care of your family."

He spent one season with the Celtics and then injured his knee. He soon came back to East Tennessee.

"It's weird that God takes you in certain avenues to get you where he wants you to be and there's no doubt in my mind, I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing," he said.

Steve is a teacher and athletic director at Apostolic Christian School. "I love teaching. I love talking to kids. There is no better feeling in the world to see a kid that is struggling with an equation or historical fact and you sit down one on one with then and you see the light bulb come on," he said.

He's like a celebrity when he walks the halls, but not because of his basketball career, it's because he's a great teacher.

"I'm so far removed from playing basketball in college, playing basketball in the NBA and now I'm a dad. I'm a dad that's a teacher," he said.

Steve Hamer-- so nice, so humble, and now using his skills on the court in the classroom right here in East Tennessee.

"I love this place with all I have. I love the city of Knoxville. I love the people in Knoxville. They've been so gracious and generous to me and I want to give back as much as I can."

One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.

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