Sam Atkinson, Gallaudet’s sports information director, asks Talaat a question: “If you could play just one Division I game, would you kill to do that?”
Talaat, who was born with severe to profound hearing loss, didn’t read Atkinson’s lips well enough to understand at first. Signed the question again, he finally shook his head emphatically.
“Yes,” he says. “I mean, that would be beyond special.”
Between Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney driving home NCAA no-pay-for-play hypocrisy, it’s easy to be disillusioned about college football today. At Grambling State last week, players boycotted practice and forfeited a game at Jackson State, unhappy with, among other things, what they said were poor facilities and the fact they had to make long bus rides to games in Indianapolis and Kansas City. Jackson State is now suing its rival for ruining its homecoming. Some Grambling State players actually sent photos to ESPN of moldy, mildewed weight rooms and shoulder pads to bolster support for their “cause.”
Here at Gallaudet during homecoming week, though, take heart.
Coach Chuck Goldstein’s budget is $131,000 for the year — about $6 million shy of what Grambling State spends on football, counting full-ride scholarships.
There are no athletic scholarships in Division III. Heck, there isn’t even extra money for homecoming jerseys — the Gallaudet kids had to take a vote before the season to see whether every player was willing to pony up $60 for a special gold jersey for this Saturday. “We voted yes,” Talaat says, smiling as Goldstein pulls out the jersey from behind his desk.
“Some of these kids leave here owing $20- and $30,000 on their student loans,” Goldstein says. “It’s not my place, because I know there’s more to the story at Grambling, but it’s hard to think about having a game taken away from you after all the work you put in.”
Dominating for a 6-0 Bison team that received votes in the Division III top 25 poll this week, Talaat has been seen by more than 20 pro scouts this season. If he is drafted or invited to an NFL camp, he will make Gallaudet history — much like his school.
The first and still only institution of higher learning specifically designed for deaf and hard of hearing students, Gallaudet turns 150 years old in April. It’s also the school where the football huddle originated.
Paul Hubbard, Gallaudet’s quarterback in 1894, realized his sign language could be read by the other team. So he pulled his players into a circle so no one could see.