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October 17, 2002

Proud to Play

From: Fresno Bee, CA
Oct. 17, 2002

Close friends Marlon Glynn and Jayme Roberson haven't let deafness keep them off the field.
By Bryant-Jon Anteola
The Fresno Bee
(Published Thursday, October 17, 2002, 5:16 AM)

Trash talking has been limited to hand gestures and facial expressions for the best friends from Madera and Hoover high schools.

But they haven't much cared.

Like many teenagers, Marlon Glynn and Jayme Roberson, football players at Madera and Hoover, respectively, have become quite talented at tossing friendly insults to each other.

A taunt is a taunt. And the exchanges only have increased with Madera set to play Hoover at McLane Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Except their trash talking, and all their communicating, is done solely by hand -- and it's not by choice.

Glynn and Roberson both were born completely deaf, unable to hear a packed crowd's roar or a coach's halftime rants.

But make no mistake: Glynn and Roberson know exactly what Friday night excitement is all about. Their disability never has stopped them from living like any other teen.

"Hoover has too many good players, there's no way we lose," said Roberson, a 5-foot-11 senior, communicating through one of his football interpreters. "It's going to be fun to play against Marlon. I've been waiting for this game."

Besides the help of an interpreter to communicate all plays and instructions, few adjustments are made to accommodate the players' lack of hearing.

Glynn and Roberson say they wouldn't have it any other way. They work very hard to blend in with their teammates and try to prove that nothing is given to them just because they are deaf.

Both currently start on special teams and are backup receivers. In addition to football, Glynn plays baseball for the Coyotes and Roberson is on the Patriots' basketball team.

Like most of their friends, Glynn and Roberson dream of playing a professional sport someday.

They certainly have a role model to follow in Kenny Walker, a deaf football player who played for the Denver Broncos and was an All-American at Nebraska. But most of Glynn's and Roberson's favorite players are on the San Francisco 49ers.

"If you have a desire to play, I don't see why you couldn't," Madera coach Mike Anderson said. "With Marlon, he was going to play anyway because he's so talented. I think it's great he's out there. It kind of enlightens us all."

Many of Roberson's and Glynn's teammates have felt the same way, and the two have become player and coaching favorites.

"Jayme's my boy," said Hoover running back Ahiaja Lane, who is also Roberson's teammate in basketball. "I don't know sign language, but we just understand each other somehow."

Ironically, it was the players' mothers who needed most convincing that Glynn and Roberson could play sports despite their disability.

Adriane Glynn, Marlon's mother, initially rejected the idea of her son playing sports. But she learned to accept it when Glynn was in fourth grade thanks to a little coaxing from her husband.

Rhonda Tilford, Roberson's mother, approved her son competing in athletics just two years ago.

"The last thing I ever want my son to do is become embarrassed because he can't hear," Tilford said. "I was terrified. There's so much communicating going on, especially football. I didn't think sports could fit into Jayme's life.

"Then I realized he has the sight, he has the alertness. He can overcome anything."

Glynn and Roberson spent the weekend practicing with one another to prepare for the big game and exchanged a few words.

Deafness may have robbed them of their hearing but it never could take away their innocence or excitement for life.

"Being deaf has its disadvantages," Glynn said, "but it's only a disability when you let it be."

The reporter can be reached at or 441-6362.

© 2002 , The Fresno Bee