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John Milledge rallies around deaf athlete | Families

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John Milledge rallies around deaf athlete


Football is not an easy sport to digest on the field.

Quarterbacks can yell an audible when they see a defense shift. Coaches scream on the sidelines to make minor adjustments, and even the crack of a good hit can motivate a team for the next play.

One John Milledge Academy athlete has had to develop a system to read everything that everyone else can easily take in.

And as the Trojans look for another deep run in the playoffs, their commitment to one another, even players with physical challenges is bringing them all together.

The sounds of fall can ring out with intensity.

Athletes chant before they run out onto the field, fans sometimes jangle noisemakers, and coaches like J.T. Wall can bellow instructions from afar.

Yet on the John Milledge team, there is one teenager who has an intent look about him but never really hears a word of what's going on in the game.

Ross Swicord is a junior defensive tackle.

"I was born with hearing loss, but I've been playing football most of my life," he said.

Ross is a humble kid. As a matter of fact, we had to convince him to do this story. It wasn't that he was being rude, he just believes he's no different than anyone else and he didn't want anyone to think that he's any better of a player than his teammates. In fact, Ross feels like he has to work more in practice to keep up with the rest of the guys.

"It's tougher for me because I always feel like I'm a level below my teammates, but my teammates help pull me up to the same level."

Many of these guys grew up together and have known Ross for over a decade, so his hearing loss is something they take in stride and the team has even come up with a plan to communicate.

Coach Wall breaks it down.

" If an adjustment has to be made while he's out there on the field, they'll kind of get him in the right spot for Ross's reaction time is so good that you just need to get him lined up and he'll react and play," Wall explained.

"They tap me on the shoulder and shift me side-to-side, Ross said.

"They want to see him succeed just likes he wants to see them succeed," Wall said with a smile.

And even though Ross shrugs off any attention, he does realize that his success on the football field may make a difference to someone down the road.

"It gives me a challenge that I can show others that a deaf person like me can play football."

You may have noticed that Ross could communicate with us, and that's because he does have a hearing aid that he uses when he's not playing football.

The problem is that technology is expensive and Ross just can't wear it on the field.

Head Coach J.T. Wall says that his junior is also very good at reading lips.

Ross Swicord and the rest of the Trojans take on Westwood in the second round of the GISA playoffs Friday night at 7:30 pm.

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