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July 8, 2003

Deaf swimmer still has competitive edge

From: News 8 Austin, TX  - Jul 8, 2003

By: Jeff Rhineer

Like many people with a disability, Sammy Oats is living his life to the fullest.
Oats, 64, is deaf, but he's never let it slow him down.

He still has a competitive spirit. Just ask his swim coach.

"He is pretty mild mannered, but when he gets into a race, he wants to win," Dr. Keith Bell said.

Oats competed in the second annual Austin Adult Swim Championships on July 5. He swims with a local adult team, and has developed quite a bond with his teammates.

"People want to know how to sign and learn a little bit about it, and that makes (me) happy that (I) get to communicate with them. And the people that (I) swim with try to learn to sign. All the time," Oats signed.

Back in the day, Oats was known for his football skills. He scored six touchdowns in one game against St. Edwards University High School. He also went on to play college ball at Hardin-Simmons, where he led the nation in receiving one year. He also gave pro football a chance, with the Houston Oilers.

"He said he was good, but he was deaf, and so it was too hard for them to deal with. It kept him from that opportunity of professional football," Bell said.

Oats' football days are behind him, and now loving his life in the pool.

"Sammy is just so much fun. He just brings a lot humor. He's always smiling and doing a good job out there. We love having him on the team,” Bell said.

One of Oats' daughters is also an athlete, winning gold medals in the Deaf Olympics.

Copyright ©2003TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin