Deaf students find acceptance, inspiration in football

Fans cheering. Band playing. Cheerleaders performing. They’re the sounds that make up every game and the cues that show Friday night football is on the horizon.

What if football had no sound?

Jabir Harris is a senior at Myers Park (Charlotte) High School. He hears the game by seeing it.

“I mostly focus on the ball. I don’t mostly hear the quarterback because that is something that can mess me up,” Harris said.

His decision to try football last year started as a personal challenge; it turned into an opportunity.

“I feel like I’m inspiring other deaf students to join football,” he said.

He’s doing it with the help of Thomas Knox.

“Thomas is a really good kid, and I think he’s learned some hard lessons out here,” Jason Gusso said.

While most of the defense gets the calls from the defensive coordinator, Knox and Harris keep their eyes on Gusso.

“Every day he helps me learn how to play defense every day — and how to beat them,” Thomas said.

When it comes to football, he might as well be their quarterback. But Gusso’s biggest challenge can’t be overcome by signing.

“Probably getting them to understand the hearing culture, and getting the hearing kids to understand them,” he said. “It’s not the communication, but it’s the clash of two cultures.”

Marquel Stinson was also worried about that barrier when he joined the Mustangs football program.

“Honestly, when I first came here, I was expecting them to treat me like, ‘Ah, I can’t hear,’ but nah, it was nice,” he said.

It’s an acceptance based on a common difference proving that sometimes it’s the actions that aren’t seen or heard that resonate the loudest.

“I feel like happy. I feel happy that my teammates, they really love me,” Knox said.

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