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June 20, 2003

VAUGHT'S VIEWS: Being deaf no problem for all-star Clayton

From: Danville Advocate, KY - Jun 20, 2003

Sports Editor

LEXINGTON -- If being deaf makes playing football harder, Terry Clayton doesn't know it.

"I really can't say if it is harder or not. This is the way I've always played. I can't compare it to what it would be like playing with hearing," said Clayton.

Obviously, Clayton has not let his loss of hearing stop him from playing. In fact, he played so well as a fullback-linebacker at Logan County last season that he was named to the Kentucky all-star team that will play Tennessee tonight at 6 at Commonwealth Stadium.

He's the first deaf player to play for the Kentucky all-star team, an honor he knows will make younger deaf athletes probably use him as a role model for what they can accomplish.

However, all-star coach Bob Redman, the coach at Louisville Male, says Clayton should inspire everyone.

"There's no way being deaf is a handicap for him," Redman said. "It's a slight inconvenience at most. It was beautiful to watch him blend in with all the other players. You forget there even is a hearing problem, which is exactly what he wants."

He has ties to Danville

Clayton has ties to Danville. He lost his hearing at age 5 and his family moved to Danville. He went to Kentucky School for the Deaf through fifth grade before his family moved back to Logan County. He still fondly recalls friends and teachers he had at KSD and several of those teachers came to watch him play a game last season.

"I had a lot of friends there," Clayton said.

He played in a recreational football league his sixth-grade year. The next year he went out for the middle school football and basketball team. That's when he started his dream of becoming not only a high school football player, but eventually making his way to the National Football League where his cousin, Joseph Jefferson, plays for the Indianapolis Colts.

"All my family is big into football," Clayton said. "It's always been my favorite sport. That has never changed."

One other constant has been his interpreter, Karen Williams. She's been on the football sidelines with him the last six years and will be again here tonight. Even though his teammates thought so much of him that many tried to learn sign language, he still needed Williams there to help during practice and between plays at games.

"I knew he was in this for the long run when he started," Williams said. "He said from the start he was going to be a pro player. We knew after high school that college would be the next level and we prepared for that."

He will be a walk-on at Kentucky

Not only will Clayton play college football, but he will play at Kentucky. He was invited to join the team as a walk-on player by coach Rich Brooks and quickly accepted the invitation.

"They are the best team and I wanted to stay in state to play," Clayton said. "I really don't know where I'll play. Maybe safety, maybe linebacker. I don't care where they put me. I just want to play for Kentucky."

He'll have an interpreter in the classroom and at football at Kentucky. He had a 3.2 grade-point average in high school.

"I can tell you from being his interpreter that he is always going to be very humble, but he studies twice as hard as most people," Williams said. "He plans to use the tutoring center at Kentucky a lot. He'll do his homework every night. As hard as he works on football, he works even harder on his studies."

Williams has a son attending the University of Louisville and has season football tickets there. However, she expects to become a Kentucky fan while Clayton is there.

"He doesn't see himself as special or as having a disability," Williams said. "His friends don't see it that way, either. He was very popular in school and he'll be popular at UK. You can't help but like him."

And admire him. Yet he wants no special treatment and probably would have preferred to talk way more about his football than being deaf this week.

"I just can't wait for the game," Clayton said. "I think we are going to play hard and win. That would really be something."

Just like Clayton is.

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