By Nathan Lymon Staff Writer
Cars roar by on Grand River Ave. near Frederick Douglass Academy. Shoulder pads pop and helmets crash on the football field. A coach yells at a player to “push, push, PUSH!”
But defensive end Juwan Mueller can’t hear it.
Mueller, a Douglass senior, is hearing impaired. He is the first hearing impaired student to play on any Douglass roster.
“It’s a bit challenging at times because of me being impaired but, I love the challenge,” said Mueller through an interpreter. “Sometimes the coach tells me that it’s a bit of a challenge for him.”
Mueller has a lot of support while playing football from the coaching staff and, mainly, his fellow players.
“We teach him techniques and give him a certain time limit to stop, or we’ll just go over and grab him,” said junior linebacker Kamar Graves. “It’s not frustrating because I know sign language as well.”
Mueller enjoys playing despite the challenge of learning a new sport and transcending the communication barrier.
“I am trying to learn as much as I can — everything they are teaching me,” said Mueller. “My team mates really motivate me and really are encouraging me to do better. I do a lot of taking turns with other people. I have to watch them then afterwards I get to practice myself.”
Mueller was unable to play earlier in the year until an interpreter could be arranged for him. Rick Aylesworth, who had worked with Mueller the previous school year, was glad to help. Aylesworth and fellow interpreter Michael Colton hope Mueller’s participation will diminish some concerns expressed about safety —for both Graves and other players. Some worry that an hearing impaired player will not stop play in time and hurt others, or not hear warnings.
“He looks at me when the play stops or focuses on,” said Aylesworth. “When he’s on the ground, he looks at me and gets up. I don’t feel worried when he plays.”
“I’m excited he gets the opportunity to play,” said Colton. “Juwan is showing that hearing impaired people can be equal to hearing people.”
“I like playing football. It helps with your mind and keeps me focus. I love the competition,” said Mueller. “I’ve never felt I wanted to give up. I always suck it up.”