PLANO, Texas (BVM) – Andrew Suarez, a deaf football player and wrestler, felt welcomed with his disability upon starting school at Plano Senior High School (TX). Thanks to the efforts put forth by the athletics program, the Class of 2023 defensive lineman is now signed to play D-III college football.
Suarez – who was born deaf – actually grew up in Florida, but he didn’t feel like he had all the tools to succeed in sports until he moved to Texas.
“In Florida, I don’t know why, but people couldn’t connect with me,” Suarez told FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth. “(But here in Plano), they’ve always supported me. They kept me motivated. They kept me going.”
Suarez’s dad even noted to Fox 4, “It was awkward (in Florida) for those that were in the non-deaf community coaching our son.”
Andrew is now enrolled at Plano Senior which is a part of the non-deaf community. The school worked to provide an inclusive environment so that he could play sports.
One of the first things that Plano Senior did was provide Andrew with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter who would be present before, during and after practices/games.
“Talking with the interpreters and other coaches that have been in my situation, we found plans that ultimately benefited him and worked very well,” Andy Rettke, Plano’s wrestling coach, told Fox 4.
Andrew’s teammates also helped to make a fun environment for him. Fox 4 showed how Andrew’s wrestling teammates would pound the mat so that he could literally feel the support through his body. The players and coaches even started to pick up on some ASL.
“Knowing that he could have a hearing friend and someone who he could connect with – even though I didn’t know that much ASL at the time, he still appreciated it,” said teammate Casey Evink.
Next year, instead of wrestling, Andrew will play college football at D-III Gallaudet University – a school for the deaf and hard of hearing.
“He was kind of like a bull in a china closet,” Plano football coach Todd Ford told NBC 5. “He was running around crazy everywhere and he was hitting and had unbelievable effort and intensity and he really, really cared. It left a mark on us and we knew ultimately he was going to be a productive player in our program and he already is.”
“Don’t be scared because I’m deaf,” Andrew told NBC 5. “I want to challenge, I want to hit, I want to practice. Nobody is going to hurt my feelings or me. I’m just going to go out there, do my job and go out there and work.”