Deaf Football Player’s Challenging Journey Inspires Team

Deaf football players photoSan Gorgonio High’s starting linebacker to play prominent role in Friday’s semifinal game

Heidi Gonzales will never forget the day her then 10-year-old son was told he couldn’t play football.

“They told us they had no use for him,” Gonzales said, referring to representatives for the local football league. “They said he was a liability because he was deaf. But Desi didn’t listen.”

Fast forward seven years.

Today, Desi Gonzales is starting linebacker for the San Gorgonio High School varsity football team, a position he earned with pure grit and the help of an American Sign Language interpreter who excitedly signs plays to him from the sidelines.

Born with congenital hearing loss, Desi, 17, attended California School for the Deaf, Riverside until earlier this year when he decided to transfer to his home high school for his junior and senior year. It was a difficult decision that worried his mom, who wondered whether her only child would adjust to life in the hearing world.

Desi has more than adjusted.

At San Gorgonio High, he’s thriving academically and he hasn’t looked back.

“He can’t hear, that’s it,” Gonzales said. “There’s nothing else that’s different about him.”

Desi is anything but ordinary.

In his 16 years as San Gorgonio’s athletic director, Matt Maeda has seen a handful of deaf athletes try their luck in sports like track and basketball. But none had the perseverance and athleticism that made Desi stand out.

“Nothing’s been given to Desi,” Maeda said. “He’s had to earn it by working hard, harder than most other kids.”

On Friday, when Heidi Gonzales watches her son and his team take on Anaheim’s Western High School at 7:30 p.m., on San Gorgonio High’s home field, she’ll be beaming with pride that her son didn’t listen.

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