TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama School for the Deaf has fielded a football team for 126 years, claiming 15 league championships and six national championships. But this season, the Silent Warriors are trying something extraordinary. For the first time ever they are playing with the Alabama School for the Blind.
“The only question I asked myself was ‘how was I going to be able to communicate?’,” said School for the blind senior Geordan Carter. “Me being visually impaired the other guys being hearing impaired.”
The idea came from the head coach, Paul Kulick. He saw one major flaw in his team.
“I’m looking at my boys and we didn’t have any size,” said Kulick. “I’m looking at ASB, they had bigger players. I should have them come over here and play for us.”
The idea seemed preposterous. How in the world would you get people who can’t see to play with people who can’t hear?
The answer was simple.
“He’ll sign to me and I’ll explain what Paul said,” said School for the Deaf senior Zach Beaver. “Most of the time that will work.”
Beaver has high frequency hearing loss, meaning he can’t hear high pitches. He is the backbone of the Silent Warriors team. His ability to sign and speak takes what seems impossible and makes it possible.
The first month of the season was rough transition. The Silent Warriors lost three of their first four games. Then they made a drastic change. They put Tanner Wood at quarterback. The most important leader on the team for communication is visually impaired, and he’s leading an offense that can’t hear him.
“We didn’t have much leadership,” said Wood. “We we’re falling apart. That’s why I am here. Just because I’m visually impaired and playing with deaf kids doesn’t mean I can’t follow my dream of playing the sport that I love.”
Wood’s attitude and passion were contagious. That’s when things started to change.
“With Tanners leadership we were able to see the communication and how that all works, making us a better team,” said School for the Deaf Senior AJ Simon. “We want to be a good team.”
You see, football is the same on every level. Deaf, blind or neither. You need passion. You need drive. Most importantly, you need leadership.
“I am a senior,” said Carter. “We are leaders of the school in class and on the field. Me being a senior, being with the other seniors, they help me become a better leader as much as I help them become a better leader.”
“It doesn’t matter about what kind of disability you have,” said Beaver. “It’s all about who is willing and who wants to get their more; who wants to win more. If you want it bad enough and you work for it, you can do and get anything.”
Last week the Silent Warriors reeled off their fourth straight win. They averaged 38 points. And they claimed their 16th league championship.