Saturday, September 8, 2007

Deaf Football Players

In light of football season being started as of last week and the NFL season starts tomorrow on CBS - I thought it would be fitting to blog about deaf football players...

The first one is only a high schooler but is so good he is getting looked at by major universities such as Virginia Tech (The Hokies)- here is an article on the boy:

September 7, 2007

WASHINGTON -- When Thomas Schaefer is on the football field, it's silent.

He can't hear the sound of hard hits, or the cheers from the crowd. Schaefer is deaf. The Robinson High School senior has lived with hearing impairment since birth.

But he said not hearing the noise on the field allows him to focus on the game he so passionately loves.

With the help of a hearing aid, Schaefer does have partial hearing in his right ear.

But he only wears the device when he's not playing because it gets uncomfortable during a game.

On the sidelines, Schaefer is a loud six foot three inch defensive end who is always jumping up and down and cheering on his teammates.

Schaefer, a two-year varsity starter and captain for the Robinson Rams, is so good that he's already received interest from several colleges, including Virginia Tech. The 18-year-old is thankful for the opportunity to play football.

Even though Schaefer is deaf, he's proving that with a disability, it's hard work and determination that makes him one of the most talented players on the football field.

And the other more known deaf football player: Martel Van Zant of OSU:

Here is a written transcript for the HH/Deaf readers out there

Deafness doesn't keep Cowboy cornerback from making big plays

By Michael Harris Daily O'Collegian
October 6, 2006

Stillwater, OK (CSTV U-WIRE) -- On any given Saturday between early September and late November, football stadiums across the nation erupt as teams tear onto their fields, fight songs blaring, to the thunderous approval of their fans.

Cheers and applause rain down from the stands, creating a din that is as much a part of the game as the ball itself, but for Oklahoma State cornerback Martel Van Zant, there is only silence.

Van Zant, who was born deaf after his mother contracted chicken pox during pregnancy, couldn't even hear the roar of the crowd after he caught the first interception off his career earlier this season, but he still feeds of its energy.

"Because of the noise and everything, I can feel the vibrations in my body," Van Zant said. "I can't hear the people, but I can see the people when they clap. I can see that, and it makes me get more motivated and play better."

Van Zant, a junior from Tyler, Texas, uses sign language to communicate to his interpreter, Allie Lee, who then relays his messages to teammates and coaches.

"I'm signing it and my interpreter is saying it, but they're my words," Van Zant said. "He's my mode of communication. If I didn't have an interpreter, I wouldn't have a clue as to what's going on."

Lee said he heard of Van Zant when he was being recruited out of high school and contacted Cowboy coaches about interpreting for Van Zant on the field.

"It's been a good learning experience," Lee said. "There are interpreters all over the U.S. in sports, but to be at this level is pretty interesting."

After becoming a starter on the Poke defense this season, Van Zant has tallied 11 tackles and an interception in OSU's four games.

Generally, Van Zant said, secondary coach Joe DeForest signals calls from the sideline with a kind of sign language "slang" and Lee communicates any audibles. Playing the game, Van Zant said, just comes naturally.

"It wasn't really hard to learn football because I'm deaf," Van Zant said. "I can go out and do whatever I want.

"Just because I'm deaf doesn't mean I'm not capable."

His resolve isn't going unnoticed.

A week ago, Van Zant was nominated for the FedEx Orange Bowl FWAA Courage Award - an award created by ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski that honors athletes who have displayed exemplary grit in the face of adversity.

Still, Van Zant said the obstacles he's overcome don't make him exceptional.

"It shows that anybody can do it - not just me," Van Zant said.

It's this kind of ethic that has made Van Zant a fan favorite. When Van Zant appeared on the Boone Pickens Stadium video board and signed "M-A-R-T-E-L" during his introduction before the Cowboys' season opener, he received the loudest ovation of any player, and his triumph over adversity has made him an inspiration to many.

"All these kids that look up to me as a role model," Van Zant said. "I've received letters from all these kids, and when I went to the state fair the other night, I met some deaf kids out there who recognized me from TV. I think it's pretty cool."

Van Zant's deafness has had a positive impact on the lives of his teammates as well.

"At first I get picked on because I'm the deaf guy, of course, but that's fine," Van Zant said. "I understand - it's not anything mean. I'll take the ribbing, and I'll give it back, too. I like all my teammates and they're like my brothers now."

In fact, Van Zant said some of his teammates are trying their hands at sign language to better communicate with him.

"There's a lot of them that are taking the ASL [American Sign Language] class," Van Zant said. "A lot of them start out with the alphabet and the basics.

"I help them out with their homework and things like that."

Van Zant and the Cowboys return to action Saturday, when Oklahoma State travels to Kansas State. Kickoff is set for 2:35 p.m.

(C) 2006 Daily O'Collegian via CSTV U-WIRE

Now as you know Im not a DEAF POWER militant - but however Im out there to try and dispel some myths and mis-truths about the deaf and HH among the hearing. Yes there are certain jobs a deaf or HH person should not do due safety concerns but as far as living a life - the only thing we can't do is hear. It has to be a good attitude and a good outlook on life. Just because Im deaf does not entitle me to any special treatment, but I do have to make accomodations such as carrying pen and paper with me when I go to starbucks to have a coffee. At wal-mart I may come across as a rude customer, but I generally sign "thank you" to the cashier as they hand me my change back. Also I have a friend or my mom make phone calls for me if I am using a phone that doesnt have an adjustable volume control. Does it make me any less independent or less productive or even any less of a hard worker? I dont think so.

MY parents once believed that because I could not hear I should not participate in school sports, I went out in the8th grade against my parents wishes. By the end of the season I had learned the drills, and most of the plays. But I had to continually remind the coach that I am HH so whenever we were practcing I had to make sure he kept himself visible when he called out a new play, or if we changed from 5 pt gaurd to man-to-man defense. Some of my teamates did not like it but I was a benchwarmer so whats it to them anyway.

But my senior high coach had a very bad attitude towards my deafness and refused to work with me on it. I was not asking to be on first string, I was simply asking that hey could you please alert me when things change? I ended up not getting much practice, barely got to suit up and I ended up quitting and went to track and cross country full time. I ended up putting my good work ethic to good use and ended up doing fairly well. 2 state cross country meets, several 5K ribbons, and spring track season placement - yeah I could say I was fairly good but no scholarships.

Hopefully in January I'll make my re-debut into the running world again and run the no-name 5K in town. Im not going to flag my deafness around but I sure ain't going to feel ashamed of it.

On the field or off - deafness shouldn't stop you from doing what you love.