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October 29, 2002

Tackling it head on

From: San Antonio Express News, TX
Oct. 29, 2002

By Raul Dominguez Jr.
San Antonio Express-News

There is no greater feeling of helplessness for a parent than knowing the precious infant in your arms has an impairment you can't protect him or her from.

Parents can place covers on electrical sockets, locks on cabinets and check under beds for monsters. But there always will be a fear of the barriers others may place in the way.

That's why Linda Boehme cried when told her child, Mitchell, had a congenital problem that robbed him of his hearing. It was the same sorrow his father initially felt, but Glendon knew it was an impairment his first child could surmount.

"I said, 'Yeah, he can't hear, but there are worse things,'" Glendon said. "But he's overcome it twofold. We weren't worried. We just wanted to help him."

With his parents' guidance, Boehme has developed an old-fashioned work ethic that has allowed him to overcome every obstacle he has faced. Forget the fact he is deaf; Boehme is an inspiration for all the things he has become.

He's a straight-A student at Marshall and starts at defensive tackle for the 7-1 Rams. His coaches and instructors all describe him as bright, nice and hard working.

"He's a super kid," Glendon said. "He's not afraid of anything. I'm a very proud daddy."

Because of that fearlessness, Glendon and Linda didn't bat an eye when Mitchell said he wanted to play football in the eighth grade. What some may have seen as a challenge, the Boehmes simply saw as another part of Mitchell's everyday life.

In fact, one of the biggest challenges Boehme has faced in football was travel. Because he attends a magnet school in the Northside School District, Boehme, 18, has to travel 25 miles from Rio Medina to attend classes.

At least it was an issue until Boehme began driving himself to school. Now the only thing standing in his way are opposing teams' offensive linemen, and Boehme is building a reputation of being able to shed them.

"There's no question you have to account for him on every play," Clark assistant Steve McGhee said. "His assets are that he is strong and quick."

Boehme, a reserve last year who has become a starter at defensive tackle for Marshall, has 26 tackles, two sacks and four hurries. Friday night, he leads his team against Jay in a key District 28-5A game.

Unless informed beforehand, no one would guess Boehme was deaf.

He has an interpreter on the sidelines when a coach wants to speak to him, but he also can read lips.

Boehme gets the defensive formations from the sidelines in the form of hand signals at the same time the middle linebacker does. If he misses a signal, he taps a teammate on the shoulder and is given the play.

"The biggest challenge was learning all the signals of football," Boehme said through his interpreter, Rosalie McChesney. "I needed to know all the different body language coaches used to call plays and set up formations."

He has developed his football instincts to the point he knows when a play is whistled dead or when a tackle is made downfield by the rhythm of the action.

Boehme also has become one of the most knowledgeable players on the field. He makes adjustments on the field by watching how his teammates or opponents are aligned.

"He has to prepare a little more than our other players," Rams defensive line coach Jeff Jung said. "He has to know the formations."

Boehme also is a force in the weight room, with a 320-pound bench press. But his greatest strength is his work ethic, something he said he brought from his days on a farm.

"I'm a country boy," he said, "That makes you tougher."

Marshall head coach Mike Carew won't argue with that.

"He brings a lot of energy, due to the fact he is going 100 percent all the time," Carew said. "Being hearing impaired, he is going to go 100 percent to stay above the rest."

Portions © 2002 KENS 5 and the San Antonio Express-News. All rights reserved.