Deaf athletes find success on the football field

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SAN DIEGO – A pair of deaf flag football teams are showing that silence is golden.

The Silent Leatherheads, an all-deaf flag football team, started in 2008 and when several deaf players expressed more interest the Bolts began playing two years later.

Silent Leatherheads player Matt Ellis said the only requirement to be on their team was knowing American Sign Language.

deaf-football“It’s really cool,” Silent Leatherheads quarterback Jim Crane signed.  “There’s no other city in the United States with two deaf flag football teams in a hearing league.  I think it’s so cool.”

The two teams just wrapped up their season in the Flight Action Flag Football League playing against hearing teams on Sunday nights at Balboa Stadium.

“I’m just proud to show the hearing teams that we can play against them. That deaf can do whatever they can do,” Bolts team manager Rob Lopez said through an interpreter.

The deaf community actually has had a very big impact on the game. A player at Gallaudet University, the premier deaf college in the United States, gets credit for inventing the huddle in the late 1800s.

“They would get together in a huddle to be able to communicate all the plays to all the players so the entire team would know what was going on.  The hearing people thought, oh, that’s awesome and so the college football teams copied Gallaudet’s huddle ever since,” Ellis signed.

The Bolts and Leatherheads always welcome new players from the deaf community, in fact, they hope enough people join so they can form a third deaf team.

“We’re looking for people to be fast, to be honest,” Adam Santone of the Bolts signed. “They’ll take their licks. They’ll get their experience and they’ll learn.  Speed is important, size doesn’t really matter, age doesn’t really matter.  If they can run and catch the ball, they can be fast, they can be thin, it doesn’t matter.”

Discrimination is not allowed here, all are welcome.  We’re trying to get players – that’s what is important, according to Santone.