ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

American Sign Language and Football: 

By Kevin Wacker
April 5, 2009

ASL and Football

When the sport football is brought up and talked about it becomes very clear that it is a well rounded and in a way complex game. From play to play and whistle to whistle the game takes on its own path as the game is played. But its own path falls under a relatively similar guideline to what it was when it first originated. Yes, the gear has changed the speed of play and other aspects as well.

With all the changes there are also a lot similarities, but one part of the game that has been the same sense the 1890s that everyone knows but doesn't realize it is the huddle. Before the huddle was created teams would talk back and forth and in the deaf schools sign to each other and this quickly became a problem that had to be dealt with, and one man would come up with a solution to this. The original huddle in the 1890s is relatively the same as it is today, a circular formation made by players in which the captain, either linebacker or quarterback calls the next play or formation.

But there is one thing different in the huddle of 1892, which is unlike the deaf quarterback at Gallaudet University, most players, if not all of them are non deaf or hearing. In 1892 a man named Paul Hubbard who attended Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and was the quarterback of the football team, created what we refer to as the huddle. Doing this simply because he did not want the opposing teams, who were also schools of deaf, to see what the play was going to be. Hubbard ordered his team to line up in a circular formation known as a huddle so he could receive and relay information to his fellow teammates easily without any worries. Sense then, just like the rest of the game itself, it has taken turns and now is seen in many different styles.

The circular formation created in the fall of 1892 is still one of the most widely used styles and most effective. I bet that when the idea of the huddle came to Paul Hubbard he did not intend it to become his football legacy. Nor the fact that it would help the game and teams that used it in other ways such as to insulate the noise from the crowd so team conversation could be heard. As the game of football became more concrete the growth and use of the huddle became a needed asset to the game. The huddle was then adopted by the American football league to help better the game play at the professional level.

Apart from Paul Hubbard deaf people have made statements in football. In the National Football League alone there have been only two deaf players, but in colleges it has been known that there have been more but never make it to the professional level. The last known deaf college football player was Martel Van Zant in 2008.

Cited Sources For Information


Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >


You can learn sign language online at American Sign Language University
hosted by Dr. William Vicars