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When ESPN comes calling with a job offer, few broadcasters turn them down. Most view it as the career break they've been waiting for.

Steve Levy is one who did refuse the call -- at least the first time around.

"I was a New York City kid living the life," explains Levy, a hockey commentator and "SportsCenter" anchor for ESPN since 1993. "I was in a big high-rise in Manhattan and having this great time.

"And my agent said to me, 'Listen, this is ESPN; nobody's ever turned them down before, and if you turn them down again, they're not going to come back a third time.' "

The Long Island native certainly didn't take the small-market-to-big-market career path typical of most aspiring broadcasters. A 1987 graduate of Oswego State in upstate New York, Levy found himself initially drawn to broadcasting as a freshman by the college TV station.

"I've always had this love and passion for sports, and I've always been an extremely mediocre athlete," he says. "I played everything growing up, didn't really excel at any sport in particular, but I just loved to play and be around the games. So this was my ticket into staying in sports and not being injured on this side of the microphone."

His first big break came when he was still in college.

"I used to travel to Buffalo to do the Bills games," he says. "They had little updates on WABC radio in New York. They carried the Jets, and so during the pregame, halftime and postgame of the Jets broadcasts, they would go around the league with 30-second cut-ins from all these different reporters or stringers. I had a friend there who was doing that show, and he let me do the Buffalo report. I was a sophomore in college, and I was already on WABC radio in New York, so that was pretty neat."

After college, he got a break at WNBC radio; WNBC later turned into the nation's first all-sports-talk station, WFAN, for which Levy served as a host and reporter. He also worked in radio for the NHL Network and in television at MSG Network

He's now coming up on his 12th anniversary at ESPN, where he's done play-by-play for NHL and college football telecasts, hosted NFL and NHL programming and, of course, been a "SportsCenter" anchor.

Last year, Levy added the title of team owner to his resume as a partner -- with fellow ESPN hockey commentator Barry Melrose -- of the United Hockey League's Adirondack Frostbite.

"It's been a lot of fun," he says. "I've really gotten wrapped up in it. I find myself, even when I'm doing 'SportsCenter,' I'll be logged in to the UHL ticker and keeping an eye on the scores and the standings and transactions and all that stuff going on. So it's been a great time, and we take it very seriously."