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September 24, 2003

Deafness can't stop Bryan's Mick Yarpe

From: Bellevue Leader, NE - Sep 24, 2003

By Eric Taylor

Bellevue Leader Sports Editor

Mick Yarpe doesn't get any special treatment from the coaching staff at Bryan.

"When he messes up, he gets chewed out just like anyone else," Bryan Defensive Coordinator Jerry Ball said.

The senior may get treated like every other player on the team, but Yarpe is distinctly different from his teammates. Yarpe is deaf.

Despite his disability, Yarpe doesn't view himself as the odd man out.

"I've never known how to play any different," he said through his interpreter, Rebecca Marks. "There are certain things of the game I miss, like hearing the crowd cheering after a touchdown, but it doesn't really bother me. I've become pretty good at anticipating things and I think I play well."

Yarpe lost his hearing after contracting spinal meningitis when he was about a year old. Being deaf has never stopped him from playing football or any other sports.

"I've always liked being a part of a team," he said. "I've been playing with most of these guys since PeeWee football. I don't think they look at me any differently."

Yarpe said not once has he considered ever giving up football. His persistence has paid off as he earned a spot as a starting linebacker this fall on a Bryan defensive unit that is among the top 10 in Class A.

"Mick deserves to be out there," Bryan Coach Tim Bond said. "Mick is a physical, high-energy kid who's a lot of fun to be around.

"You love those kinds of kids on your team.

"I've known Mick and his family for a long time. His brother (Scot) played for me and I've always considered Mick to be part of our family. He's a special kid to be around."

Marks, who works for Omaha Public Schools, has been Yarpe's interpreter at each of his three games this fall and rotated with other interpreters who work with him during practices.

Marks is out in the middle of the action during practice and sticks close to the Bryan coaching staff during the games to relay signals and defensive adjustments to Yarpe before the snap.

Because of the obvious adjustments Yarpe has had to make to play football, Bond says it has made him much sharper on the field.

"I think he finds a lot of ways to compensate," Bond said. "His senses are sharper, his movement is sharper and he comes off the ball the same time as the other kids.

"I think being deaf has forced him to discipline himself more and stay focused. When you watch Mick play, you'd never be able to tell he was deaf."

Many of Yarpe's teammates have done their part to help by learning sign language. They developed certain on-field signals to help him with audibles or defensive adjustments before a play.

"The kids have done very well in communicating with him," assistant Coach Rick Thurston said. "We're so used to it by now that it's like it doesn't even exist any more."

"A lot of these kids have been playing football with Mick for a long time and I don't think they look at him any differently than they do their other teammates," Bond said. "As a coach, I don't see anything different."

Bond said coaching a kid such as Yarpe has helped him grow as a person, both on and off the field.

"At times, I've gotten frustrated with him, but I realize that it's something I need to work on, not him," he said. "He's taught me a lot about patience; not just with my players, but with everybody."

It has also helped him appreciate what players such as Yarpe can mean to everyone.

"It's amazing anytime you have kids like Mick or Matt Johnson (a senior lineman who plays with a prosthesis on his right leg) and the way they have persevered and overcome their disadvantages," Bond said. "They're an inspiration for all of us.

"I think the kids who have the ability to play but choose not to need to take a closer look at kids like this."

Yarpe is very humble about his situation. He just knows he has, and always will, love playing football."

"I love hitting people," Yarpe said with a wide smile. "I couldn't imagine my life without football."

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