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Silence on the Gridiron

By , Ionia, MI

Focusing on one thing has never been a struggle for me. I don't ever have distractions from anything. Some would say it is a blessing to have that ability, but to me it is terrible to never know what other people are talking about. Or if they're talking about you, that’s usually the worst part.  A lot of times I will catch them saying stuff about me, thinking that I won’t notice. My mom has been able to learn all the things she has needed to, and she has given me a lot of opportunities to succeed. The last couple days she’s been acting really weird and extra generous.


Then it all came at once, she said she found a school. At first, I thought she was crazy to think that a school is going to fit my needs. How would I even be able to understand what they are saying, or be able to work with groups to complete projects, and there’s hundreds of other situations.


When she told me the name of the school I thought she had completely lost it, I thought I was gonna have to call someone to come and get her because it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. The school’s name was Jones’s Academy for the deaf. It was ridiculous, even though there was going to be a whole bunch of people like me there, I still felt like I was going to be an outcast. I have zero skills with people outside of my family, my mom has home schooled me ever since I started and most people don’t know sign language to even talk to me in the first place.


My mother didn’t really give me a choice in going to the school.


  She said, “you have to try it for at least a year, and if you still don’t like it than we can continue to do home schooling.”


She has always wanted the best for me and she told me that she didn’t think I was building my social skills enough and that going to a school would help.  But what really scared me was school started in a couple of days. The only thing that is going to get me through the year was watching Football. It always seemed to calm me down and relieve me of stress. I tried Flag Football one year, I was actually pretty good when I could figure out what the plays are. I only played one season though because it eventually got annoying not knowing what was going on.

 

So the day is here, the day I get to look like an idiot. I walked into the school, everything was the same, everybody staring at me because I was new. But something felt different it felt like no one at all was talking, or moving their mouths. Then everything went to normal, at least for them, and a tsunami of sign language broke out and it felt so weird to be surround by people like me. Everything was exactly the same and completely different all at the same time. Everyone was staring at me with what I like to call the spy eyes, where they look down while still staring at you thinking they’re being sneaky but they’re not. But it’s different though because they’re mouths are like statues, but they’re fingers are like motors. I went through the whole day with talking to people I didn’t want to talk to, but I was miserable because I was barely talking at all. The only thing that was nice was my mom must have taught me faster because I already knew everything they were doing. But eventually that got boring just pretty much reviewing stuff all day.


It was like this for the first few months, just everyday being cooped up in my own bubble. I knew I needed just to talk with some or doing something with just one person. It was so depressing to be like this and not be with someone. My relationship with my mom had got complicated because at times I would get angry with her for putting me into the school,but she seemed to know that I still loved her. One day I was walking down the halls and someone put there hand on my shoulder, I thought to myself thank goodness that everyone is deaf here because I knew I had just screamed. It’s kind of odd when a deaf person gets scared because it’s like accidently burping at a formal event, you almost feel guilty, then you get really embarrassed. When I turned around I was surprised to see the gym teacher Mr. Harris. He started saying that he noticed I was pretty athletic and that he thought I was pretty strong. At first I didn’t know what he wanted, but then Mr. Harris asked me if I considered joining the football team. I didn’t really know what to say to him so I just told him that I was thinking about it. Which wasn’t a total lie I had seen flyers all over the school about the football season coming up. I thought about it at home and came to the conclusion that it would be easier because the coaches could give me plays I could actually understand. I asked my mom about it and she told me it was a great idea because she knew I loved the game and she also thought it would give me a chance to make some friends.


I wish I had a good dad that I could talk to about this. My dad got scared when the doctor’s said I was deaf, and he ran off. He didn’t want all the extra responsibilities of having a deaf child, for one he didn’t even know what they were and wasn’t even interested in finding out what they are. My mom said he had made many promises to stay and help my mom care for me, but when they found out I was deaf she said she could see it in his eyes that he wasn’t ready for this. Since my parents did have me at a young age, it was just too much for him at that time. My dad was 17 and my mom was 16. However, my mom could never have run out on me she always said that as soon as she saw me she fell in love with me.


I have had to do a lot of things different and my mom never really helps me with most of those things. She doesn’t want me to have to depend on other people, so with that being I am always checking things that you have to hear to know what’s going. At times I get a little upset with her and start letting her hear my opinion, and she just sits there and listens to what I have to say then asks me if I’m done and I’ll say yes and she will tell me that she understands why I’m upset but it has to be like this and she walks away. After that I’ll just go and sit in my room and calm down, and watch a game if there’s any on.


Sign ups are today and I had decided to at least tryout maybe if I like it I’ll stay and play for the season. My mom just told me to go into the practice open minded and to try my best no matter what anyone says. Some of the other football players came up to me today and asked if I was gonna tryout for the team.


I told I was going to and they were excited to have a new kid on the team. Later that day at 6:00 practice had started, and we just did some basic stretches. They clocked  are 40 times to see how fast we were. It was nice to realize I was the second fastest on our team I was behind this kid named Terrell. I was the second fastest on the team but he made me look like a turtle. All the other kids on the team were telling me that he was the reason why they had won most of their games in previous seasons.


Next we had to go and push the sled which in flag football we had never had to do because there were no lineman in flag football but the coaches believe that everyone should have to push it no matter who you are. The coaching staff seemed to be really good they didn’t treat anyone differently unless a kid was screwing around which in that case that kid had to run a lap. After we hit the sled we actually started to hit people, everyone seemed to know how to hit really good on the team. I got popped a couple times, and kind of had to catch my breath a little bit. But I wasn’t the one to get hit hard and then be all shy to hit someone else, if anything it made me hit people even harder. I did know it was practice though so I didn’t do anything crazy to get myself hurt or anyone else get hurt.


After showing everyone that I wasn’t a joke out on the field, other players seemed to have a little more respect for me. Some even started to talk with me, as a friend, this made me feel really good that I was fitting in so easily. After are hitting drills we started doing some conditioning stuff which coaches had told we would being doing a lot of running to every practice,
Coach said, “We don’t like to see people breathing heavily out on the field, this is a place to stand tall and show the other team how much of a young man you are.”


Coach had said a lot of very inspirational things throughout just this one practice, which to me is another aspect that makes someone a good coach.


After we did are conditioning, which I would have to say was the worst thing that I had ever done. We went through some of the plays, for today we just did the basic plays and as we go on in the season we are going to be going over some more complex plays. After that practice was about over and we did are final running drills that were also terrible. As I was leaving Coach Harris had come to me and said, “Son, if plan to keep playing this season you have a real good shot at being a starter for are team.”


I didn’t really know what to say... so I just said, “That’s great coach! and “Goodnight.”


My mind was filled with pride, even if my words didn’t show it.


Later, I told the news to my mom in the car and she got all excited, but she still asked me if  had made any friends. Which I was glad to tell her,  I had had some good conversations with some of my teammates. 
After what coach said I had decided to play this season, which I was actually excited. This was the first time that I had actually felt like I fit in. Some of the other kids on the team started to hang out with me which was really nice considering I had barely even talked to someone at school in a couple months.
Our first game was in a couple weeks and we have already learned a lot of stuff that I had never even heard of from just watching football. I have been working with the quarterbacks which made me feel proud to be one of the most important positions on the team. Coach had told me that I had the perfect body type for a quarterback, which was true I am tall and and sort of stocky. Also one thing I had on everyone else was that I could throw the ball about twenty yards farth than anyone else. Coach Harris has continued to impress me with how good of a coach he is. He has taught me so much more technique to make my accuracy better when I’m throwing to a receiver.


We have learned all the plays that coach Harris has taught us so far and we have all gotten into good shape to be playing a whole game. And now it has come the time to play our first game, as we were warming up some of the assistant coaches were starting to get us fired up for the game. Our game was home against Williamston high, I had heard from the other players that they had been one of the better teams in the conference so if we came out and beat them our first game we would possibly be a contender to go to the playoffs.When we were about to go out to the tunnel everyone was really excited and all the coaches were hitting our shoulder pads and getting us ready.


At that moment, I felt a search of energy go through me and I could feel the stands rumbling as the fans stomped their feet on the bleachers. When we ran out on the field there were so many people in the stands, and I realized I have never played in front of such a big crowd. I was a little nervous, but I had to stay calm if  wanted to play my best.


I myself have seen players in the NFL get nervous and they don’t play up to their potential and even play really terrible. So I knew I couldn’t do the same. Williamston was a team that was sort of mixed in size, they had kids that were 6 foot and they had kids that were 5’5” . Which is probably why they were as good as what my teammates said they were because they could put the small and fast kids behind they big and strong kids and that can get a team a long way. We had won the coin toss and we had elected to defer to the second half, so we would be kicking off. I wasn't on any other squad except for offense which usually happens when you're the quarterback because the coaches don't want them to get hurt. We have a pretty stout defense, we are big and fast and strong on defense so we were able to stop Williamston fairly easily. In practice Terrell and I had become a very good combination, I had easily learned where he liked the ball and he could burn any safety or corner that was covering him. When the offense had gone out on the field coach had called a bomb to start the game of strong and if it was incomplete there was no harm done. As I got the offense set and I was making my check-downs I felt that I had something to prove and that I needed to make this pass. Of course it was going to Terrell who seemed to always get himself open. I said the cadence and all at once everything was going, I had got plenty of time from my line. And as expected Terrell had burned his corner and was streaking down the sideline. When I saw him I cocked back and launched the ball, probably a good 50 yards down field. It him dead in stride and he was off the end zone. TOUCHDOWN!! The fans were electric and were jumping up and down all over the place. The announcer said it was a 72 yard catch and run. It felt amazing that the first throw I had made in my career was a touchdown.


After the bomb to Terrell our team had so much momentum that we were pretty much unstoppable. Our defense had got stop after stop, and on offense we had continued to keep throwing it deep. And when they dropped everyone back we would run it up the gut and get a good amount of yards off of that. Coach Harris has now fully proven that he is a great coach and he has my respect. By the end of the game the score was 42-7, we had completely stomped on Williamston and we now thought we had a chance to make it really deep into the playoffs.


The next week in practice we didn't have to do as much running considering we had just blew out Williamston. Coach had told us after the game that this is behind us now and we have to think about the next team otherwise we won't do as good. Our practice has not changed much I went off with the other quarterbacks and we continued to do our passing routes. And we worked on focusing on our technique.


This next game wasn’t going to be as important as the first game but, like all games you still have to be read to play your hardest. This week we are playing Shepherd who was the one of the worst teams in the conference. We still practice all the same and we warmed up the same as always.


Coach Harris said “ Every game is the same, and you should always treat it like you’re playing the hardest team.”


So we warmed up and got out there and did what we do. Our team was receiving the ball and terrell, who is are kick returner, took it out about to the 50 yard line. Right from there I knew it was going to be a easy game. We got a little excited about the kick return and it snowballed into a victory over Shepherd. It was expected for us to beat them but a win feels just as good if it's a bad team or a good team. The score ended up being 35-14, it wasn’t as good as the first game but we knew we really had to bring a strong game to them otherwise we would look like a weak team.

The next few games we had kept our streak going and got 3 more wins . We had now sealed a concept that we were good enough and were most likely going to the playoffs. Unfortunately we had came to a game that we were playing another team that was very good. The Charlotte Raptors was what they were called. Me and Terrell had been connecting the whole game, but our problem was that our defense couldn’t get a stop. So both our offenses were going back and forth. Until it came down to the last minute of the 4th quarter, score tied at 35-35 , with the crowd going crazy the raptors had the ball. They managed to get the ball down to the fifty with 10 seconds to go, clock ticking 4,3,2,1, finally there quarterback calls it. It seemed like he had all day in the pocket,  but eventually he bombs it down the sideline to their best receiver and he laid a dime right into his hands and the receiver was in the endzone. Touchdown. It was one of the worst feelings I had ever felt.
That next week of practice had been the hardest one yet, which was expected. We all worked as hard as we could and the next week it had paid off. We came out firing and ended up rolling over a team that should have probably been a challenge  for us but we didn’t want to have that happen to us again. That anger had carried us through the season,  with a record of 8-1.


The first team we played was the Carrington jets, they were a decent team but they weren’t that hard of a challenge to get through. We kept up our hopes easily with every win. Next game was tight but with the thought of losing a close game in the back of our heads, we were able to pull through and win 21-17. Which meant we were going to the FINALS!!!


There we were playing a team I had never heard of, Coppell High was what they were called. The coaches made sure to get us fired up for this game, and we came out on the kick off with a good start and Terrell took it out to the 30 yard line. And from there we were easily able to get down the field and score. This continued through the half. By the end of the half it was 21-0. We came out of halftime and got a quick stop and then again got down the field and scored making it 28-0. By then were figured the game was about over and must have relaxed a bit. On the nexts drive for Coppell  they ran down the field and scored. Now it’s 28-7, We got the ball back and we called a sweep out to the right, but our running back got leveled and fumbled. One of their safeties picked it up and took it back. Now it’s 28-14, from there it was mostly  a defensive game but Coppel scored again making it 28-21 and then they were able to get a field goal. So now it was 28-25, and we were starting to bite our fingernails. By now it has reached down to the Last minute once again a close game that could go either way. Coppell had the ball, they were making a run  and got all the way down to the twenty it was 3rd down for them with 7 seconds left on the clock. They’re quarterback after what felt like was a century snapped the ball and it was off. He had little time and was forced to scramble. FInally in desperation found a receiver running a fade to the corner and lobbed it to him. The ball now flying through the air, a small object that was going to represent all the hard or give it no meaning what so ever. Final it reaches the receivers hands but with a last second effort from our corner, it’s knocked away!! WERE THE CHAMPS! WERE THE CHAMPS! Everyone was going crazy and in all the excitement I found my coach and gave him a big a hug and gestured, “We did it."

A week later after all the excitement had died down just a bit, we all carried a chip on our shoulder knowing we did something great. After everyone knowing now that I had been one of the players that had carried our team to the championship. I had a lot of attention coming towards me which had been quite the change from the beginning of the year. But along the way I had made a few friends and had started to fit in just fine with the community that we have at the Jones Academy for the Deaf.




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