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Millcreek Journal

First football team for deaf students starts season

Oct 01, 2022 07:54PM ● By Greg James

By Greg James | [email protected]

The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind has established its first-ever coed football team.

“For several years we have been wanting football,” Associate Superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Michelle Tanner said. “Now USDB is going to provide eight-man football. We plan to challenge other schools throughout the state and maybe other deaf schools around the country.”

Derrick Coleman, a deaf football player at UCLA, was not drafted into the NFL. His story includes being picked on as a kid and being told he would never make it. He said, “They didn’t call my name, told me it was over, but I’ve been deaf since I was three, I didn’t listen.”

Coleman eventually signed as an undrafted free agent and spent parts of eight seasons in the NFL and was part of the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning team in 2013. He wanted to prove that it can be done, no matter what.

The players at USDB may not have aspirations for the NFL, but playing football is important to them.

“We are not really focused on the wins and losses,” head coach Brian Tingley said. “We are giving them the opportunity to have the experience. They might not get this at a bigger school. In this game, a hearing player has no advantage over someone who is deaf.”

The Eagles played their first games Sept. 2 and 14 at Judge Memorial High School. The Whitehorse Raiders and Altamont Longhorns will forever be the team's first opponents.

This season is only the beginning of a tradition the school wants.

“This will be an amazing season. This is a great opportunity for students who are deaf,” Tingley said.

The USDB teachers and staff encourage students to overcome challenges. Many sports are not available for children who are deaf.

“When I was a kid I played football, but I had no deaf peers,” senior Jordan Paredes said. “After I heard about this league I was excited to be with deaf peers and learn more about the games. I was very excited that there was finally a team. I hope we win, we would love to have people show up and cheer us on.”

Paredes figures he has played 12 years of football. He currently attends Kenneth Burdett School for the Deaf in Ogden, Utah.

USDB currently has three campuses. KBSD in Ogden, Jean Massieu School of the Deaf in Salt Lake City, and Elizabeth DeLong School in Springville. With all three schools combined, they currently have 12 players on the roster.

“We want more players, both boys and girls. We are advertising to get more students to come out and play,” Tingley said.

The rules for eight-man football only vary slightly. The games are played on an 80-yard field and offensive formations are slightly different, only five players need to be on the line of scrimmage.

In Utah high school football seven schools play eight-man football: Rich, Whitehorse, Altamont, Monticello, Water Canyon, Whitehorse and Monument Valley.

“This is the first year that this program has been developed. Our vision is to have a coed team and football is an opportunity for our kids to build connections and learn more about themselves and the community. We can change school culture,” Tingley said. “I think it is important this first year to build sportsmanship and see what happens going forward.”

“I have always wanted to play football,” sophomore John Deitz said. “It is my favorite sport, and I watch it all of the time.”

When asked if they were ready to play Deitz waved his hand slightly from side to side, which means somewhat or maybe.