Deaf Athlete Joins NCAA Team

Trailblazer is determined to break barriers for the deaf

By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User

Posted Feb 5, 2009 10:14 AM CST

(Newser) – Signing to play football for Baltimore’s Towson University is a big leap for Ryan Bonheyo—and for the Division I program, too, the Washington Post reports: Bonheyo is deaf, and will be the lone such player at Towson and one of very few to earn a scholarship in any sport. “It’s a lifelong dream,” says the star linebacker and running back. “Get that equal-rights thing going.”

Towson will provide interpreters to ease the transition for 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bonheyo, from Frederick, Md. “During a game, there is a whole lot of communication that goes on without talking,” assures his new coach, who’s considering sign-language classes. Bonheyo will likely focus on playing defense, a bit easier because hand signals are commonly used.

Connecticut quarterbacks speak with Rob Ambrose. Ambrose, now the first-year head coach at Towson, says he's not worried about communicating with Bonheyo.
Connecticut quarterbacks speak with Rob Ambrose. Ambrose, now the first-year head coach at Towson, says he's not worried about communicating with Bonheyo.   (AP Photo)
A Towson running back jumps past his opponent in a game in New Hampshire. Bonheyo will be only deaf member of the Baltimore university's football team.
A Towson running back jumps past his opponent in a game in New Hampshire. Bonheyo will be only deaf member of the Baltimore university's football team.   (AP Photo)
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Clips of Ryan Bonheyo's highlights on defense.   (erinzimmerman)
Highlights of Ryan Bonheyo as a running back.   (erinzimmerman)

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Body language and hand gestures are a staple of everyday life. Once we develop a baseline of gestures, we'll be able to communicate well. - Rob Ambrose, Towson's first-year coach

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