Darren Levi Cephas, an avid Eagles fans known to sports radio listeners in and around Philadelphia as Levi from Overbrook, died Friday, Aug. 31, his 56th birthday.
Mr. Cephas, who suffered from heart and kidney disease, died of an infection, his family said.
To regular listeners of 94.1 WIP, Mr. Cephas was an irrepressible force, calling in every day (and sometimes multiple times a day) to offer hosts a piece of his mind about the Eagles. He'd been calling in to WIP for at least 25 years, often going back and forth with longtime host Howard Eskin.
"Levi from Overbrook was an interesting guy.… He was a thorn in our side, but a lovable thorn in our side," Eskin said to open his show on Saturday. "Nearly every Saturday morning, Levi and I would go round and round. Unfortunately, we will not have Levi to call us anymore."
When Mr. Cephas called WIP, he would often move to the front of the line and get right on the air. But he would also often accuse station manager Spike Eskin of trying to keep him off the air, especially when things would get heated between Mr. Cephas and some of the station's hosts.
"He always claimed my father was famous because of him. Legitimately believed it," Spike Eskin said. "The best part is, every time he came into WIP, he'd walk in so slowly, with this sense that he barely had the time to give us. Like he was blessing us with his presence. Not at all intimidated."
While Mr. Cephas' station of choice was WIP, his passion for talking about the Eagles would also lead him to call into rival 97.5 The Fanatic, where he would most often trade blows with longtime afternoon host Mike Missanelli.
"I'm saddened by the news of Levi passing," Missanelli said. "He was a great caller who, because of his thoughtful discourse, became a friend to us all here at The Fanatic."
Mr. Cephas was one of five siblings who grew up in a small house on South Patton Street in South Philly. He moved to West Philadelphia about 10 years ago, thus the "Overbrook" moniker.
Nichelle Cephas, his younger sister, said she was blown away by the outpouring of support and gratitude that came the station and listeners.
"When I saw how people were shouting out to him, especially all the people that didn't really know him … it was something else," Cephas said. "I want them to know that he had a good heart, he did for people…he was an all-around good guy."
Ron Parker, a lifelong friend who grew up with Mr. Cephas, said everyone in the neighborhood got a kick out of hearing him battle with the hosts on air. Parker recalled a car ride in which Mr. Cephas immediately turned the dial to WIP, called in and, less than a minute later, was on the air arguing about the Eagles.
"He was often a pain in the butt in terms of his rhetoric," Parker said. "They would cut him off before he'd finish his call, then he'd call me and mouth off for another hour. He always had a lot to say about the Eagles."
Despite the team's ups and downs over the years, Mr. Cephas was always optimistic about the Eagles, Parker said. He had high hopes about their success this season.
"I am so hurt that he won't be around. I can't call him to ask him questions," Parker said. "I'm going to miss that."
Mr. Cephas held a number of jobs, including working at Philadelphia International Airport, for the IRS, and driving for Uber and Lyft. At one point, he also sold crabs out of Lee's Hideaway Bar in Grays Ferry. But no matter what he was doing to earn a living, his passion was always the Eagles.
Daniel Clemons, who was friends with Mr. Cephas for nearly 40 years, said it was an experience to watch Eagles games with him. The last game the two watched together was the Eagles' second preseason game against the New England Patriots. They turned off the audio on the television so they could listen to WIP's game call featuring Merrill Reese and Mike Quick.
Clemons said it would be difficult watching this season without his passionate friend by his side.
"I don't know if I'll be able to watch a game. I really don't," Clemons said. "Watching without being able to talk to him about it, being with him…it's going to be very difficult."
Funeral arrangements were pending.
Here are more remembrances of Cephas from current and former WIP hosts and colleagues: