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Deaf Football:


Football and the Deaf Community

By Chase Deadder
April 3, 2009


Football and the Deaf Community

I have played football since I was nine, so for about eleven years. I have a love for the game and I am always learning from others. In Pop Warner football my close friend named Anthony Black was 80% deaf, he and I were very close through the years we played with each other. He had many challenges to overcome; he would have to go to the coaches in order to see the play we were going to run, he had to write on a piece of paper in order to communicate with the coaches, and he had a hard time talking to us to get help. There are many obstacles that deaf football players have to go through in order to succeed.

In 1894 a deaf football player at Gallaudet University invented the huddle after getting frustrated that the opposing teams would try to watch the signals and guess what they were about to run (Fookembug). There have been two deaf players in the NFL: Kenny Walker with the Denver Broncos in the early 1990s and Bonnie Sloan for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 (Yasinskas). This proves that it is not impossible for a deaf football player to reach the professional level. With the way our world is changing, there are more and more opportunities for people with disabilities to move up in the world and pursue their dreams.

I was able to speak to my friend Anthony to receive a little insight to how he was able to overcome his challenges through high school football. The first question I wanted to know was; Was it hard for you to communicate with the other players and coaches? "It wasn't too hard for me to understand what my coaches were trying to tell me but it was very difficult for me to ask my coaches questions. During my junior and senior year, I was lucky enough to have an interpreter to communicate with my coaches for me. With the help from the interpreter, I was able to communicate just like a hearing person" he said. (Anthony Black) What were some challenges you had to overcome? "Well of course the communication problem, but there were many time when other football players would make fun of me and I would not even know about it because I could not hear them. They would taunt me and do things behind my back, and it really made me upset and sad. I had to learn to forget about what people say and just be myself". (Anthony Black)

The Deaf community has had a large impact on the way football is played today, there are many deaf football leagues that kids are able to join, and just because you're a deaf person does not mean you can't make it to the NFL, you just need to be dedicated and work hard toward your goal. This was a great topic to research and I am glad that I have learned some new things about the way deaf culture has influenced the way we play football today.

Work Cited:

Black, Anthony -- Deaf friend that I played football with. Picture:,local,player

Fookembug, Bug. (2009, February 1). Deaf Football Player Invented the American Football Huddle. Retrieved April 3, 2009:

Yasinskas, Pat. (2008, Ferurary 21). For Van Zant, it's More Than Just the Injury. Retrieved April 3,2009:


Jeremy Henderson

Football and the Deaf

I am very passionate about football and have been for many years. I have been playing football since the age of seven. I used to know very little about the connection of ASL and Football. Here I will discuss the connection between the two as well as what ASL has done for the game of Football.

Growing up I never realized how much of an influence ASL had on the game of football. I always thought that people who were hard of hearing or deaf could not play football because they couldn't get the play calls due to the fact that they could not hear very well or could not hear at all. I was proven wrong when I entered high school because we had a player who was deaf and hard of hearing. He was actually an extremely good player even with a slight disadvantage. He even earn a football scholarship after his junior season but his dreams were cut short when he ended up blowing his ACL, MCL, and Meniscus. At the end of my high school career my views of deaf/hard of hearing people had changed dramatically. Not only did he prove my narrow minded views about deaf and HH people but also proved to me that not only can they play the game but play the game at a high level just like any other person.

"The football huddle was invented at Gallaudet as a way to keep opposing teams from eavesdropping on the instructions the quarterback gave his teammates in ASL" (Lifeprint). That is just one of the many fascinating facts about football and ASL.  Signal calling from a coach to the players on the field was influenced by ASL. The coaches give signals to their players to get the play call into the huddle. Without the signal calling coaches would have to sub a player in each and every play to and give the the play just so the unit on the field got the call, (Sportsattic). There have been a numerous amount of deaf football players in the history of football. Some believe as a defensive lineman you have a slight advantage being deaf because the opposing quarterback can not give you a "hard count" to draw you offsides. Also ASL expects believe that deaf players pick up tendencies of opposing players because they are more observant due to the simple fact that they are unable to hear, (Fookembug).

Signing has played a role into evolving football into the game it is today. In my experience my coaches have made us wear ear plugs at times so we can not focus so much on the noise but the body language of the opposing players. Hand signals are also used all over the nation in every level of football, from grade school football to the pro's. Signing and gestures have done a lot for the game and without their heavily influence--the game would not be the same.

Works Cited

Bush, Susan. (2007, Feb. 22). What's the Scoop: On The Football Huddle?. Boxcar Media, LLC. Retrieved 4, Nov. 2007: <>.

Grayson, G. (2003). Talking With Your Hands, Listening With Your Eyes: A Complete Photographic Guide to American Sign Language. Garden City Park, New York: Square One Publishers, Inc.

Stewart, D.A., E. (2006). American Sign Language the Easy Way. Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Educational Series.

On 4/7/2009, Blaine Jackson writes:

With all my experience playing the game of football I know that it is a very physical and auditory game. It is a game where calling plays making audible during plays communicating verbally before, during, and after a plays happens every down. It is hard to imagine playing football as a deaf person. The sounds of the game are often talked about among former football players. The sounds of the hard hits, and the talking that goes on between plays but for some young football players their memories of the game will be of the sites and feelings from when they played the great game of football.

In the article about the Fighting Spartans in Columbus, Ohio at ( the Fighting Spartans play 8 man football as apposed to the regular 11 man teams. They have a small league but they are also a small school. They themselves and their parents talk of the deep comradery they have among the players and how being deaf and being able to enjoy the experience of playing football has brought them together. Playing football for me has helped me make some great friend and it has also helped me become the man I am today. I would hate for the simple fact that a young man is deaf to keep him from the chance to have the same great experiences that I was blessed with during my life. Even though the Fighting Spartans aren't the biggest school and they don't get the most recognition they are happy to be able to play the game with their fellow teammates and take it for all its worth.

In another story about a deaf high school football team it is not small time football at all ( the Silent warriors are an all deaf football team that has won the national championship for hearing and deaf schools. They are team that relays on their execution of perfect plays, their speed, agility, and the confusion of silence on the field. Other teams think that because they are saying anything that they aren't playing with passion or emotion but those are two things that the Silent Warriors have plenty of, to say the least. Only 5 players on their team are over 200 pounds. Where as on my high school football team we had at least 20 players that tipped the scales over that amount. Many of which were 40-50 over that amount. The Silent Warriors use a snare drum to coordinate the timing of their plays and sign in their play calls. When playing against other deaf teams they use number signals to call the plays. It wasn't a concern for them when they played hearing teams until the hearing teams brought in interpreters to intercept their play calls.

At this site you can read of the history of the American Football Huddle:

The huddle was invented for the very reason I discussed earlier. Other deaf teams were reading the hand signals of the Gallaudet University football team in 1894. So they gathered around in a circle to prevent the other teams from seeing their signs. Hearing football teams caught shortly after and now every team in world uses a huddle unless of course they run hurry up offense where there is no huddle at all.
--Blaine Jackson


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