Thursday, May 8, 2014

Adham Talaat on Being a Deaf Football Player

Adham Talaat,  a 23 year old six foot six inch 275 pound Senior Defensive Lineman from Springfield, Virginia, may be the first Gallaudet University player chosen in the NFL draft.  Gallaudet is a unique institution of higher learning, founded in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln, as it is the only university which serves the deaf and hard of hearing.

Although Talaant is considered severely to profoundly deaf, he can hear when he has his hearing aids on.  However, Talaat usually plays without the hearing aids.  If Talaat is drafted, he will  be one of the few deaf players play in the NFL. 

The road for Talaat being an NFL draft prospect was long and winding. Talaat had been playing youth sports since age six, but he did not start playing football until high school as that is when Riddell released the Revolution helmet which gave space for hearing aids. 

Due to Talaat's secondary school playing prowess, Talaat was encouraged to go to the University of Massachusetts in 2008, as it had a Division I football program, but he was "gray-shirted"(delayed enrollment) awaiting a scholarship.  Talaat withdrew before completing his spring semester as the coaching changed and Talaat felt isolated on campus.  

Talaat was warned that his withdrawal might have been the end of his football career.  Talaat worked at a Warehouse Club yet he continued with his football oriented conditioning.  Janitors at West Springfield High let Talaat in their gym to continue his training.  What inspired Talaat during this tough time was an internet poem--"I can, I will, I did".

In deep sleep, I'm dreaming
I know exactly where to go.
I see the quarterback stumble,
I deal that crushing blow.
I wake myself at daybreak.
My rival's still asleep.
It gives me the advantage
when both of us compete
My hands are shaking crazy.
I long to get it done.
My mind's already focused.
The fight has now begun.

Six months after leaving Amherst, Talaat was encouraged to talk to Gallaudet Bison head coach Chuck Goldstein.  Talaat felt that Gallaudet was comfortable but the Division III school had less resources and football culture, but Gallaudet was also the first school which introduced the huddle in the 1890s (using hand signals).  But after prayerful consideration, Talaat enrolled in Gallaudett in 2010. By his Junior year, Talaat was a national standout defenseman, while also being an outstanding student athlete.  Talaat graduated in December 2013 with a 3.93 GPA and was a first team academic All American.

Since the start of the year, Talaat has been enrolled in the TEST Parsi Football Academy to prepare for the NFL combine and the draft. Scouts considered Talaat to be a raw talent, as there were many drills for which Talaat had not previously trained. 

While it remains to be where Talaat will be drafted, his drive and attitude ought to be commended.  Talaat does not let his handicap define him. And Talaat's positive attitude is inspiring. 

h/t: Washington Post
     CBS Sports

UPDATE 5/10/2014   Talaat was not among the players chosen in the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.  Then again, controversial standout Michael Sam was chosen 248th.  

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