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October 3, 2003

Louisville's LeFors makes believers

From: CBS Sportsline - Oct 3, 2003

By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer

Take a break from the excess of the BCS this weekend. Blow off the Big 12. Eschew the SEC.

There's a bright, bold world out there that college football fans don't see every weekend. Scads of newspapers carry only summaries of Top 25 teams. The Heisman race is limited to the football factories.

Stefan LeFors ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency. (AP)

Into this giant shadow, though, it's time to enter the name of Stefan LeFors.

Louisville's junior quarterback is playing a huge game this week against South Florida. But that's not an eighth of the story. LeFors' parents won't be able to hear any accounts of the game; neither will his brother, Eric, or his paternal grandparents or three uncles.

All are deaf. In fact, LeFors is the only hearing member of his immediate family.

"But I came out able to hear fine," LeFors told the Louisville Courier-Journal earlier this season. "I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself why I was the one who was able to hear. I just believe it must have been for a reason. This is the way God made me, and I thank him for that and for everything that's happened to me every day."

Taking over for Dave Ragone, LeFors is fourth nationally in passing efficiency. Louisville (4-0 for the first time since 1993) is one of only 14 undefeated I-A teams. Those types of stats tend to get obscured on a weekend when Kansas State is at Texas and Tennessee is playing at Auburn.

But Louisville is the big time that is about to get bigger. The Cardinals are expected to be invited to the Big East by Dec. 1 and begin play there in the 2005 season. LeFors' take on this week's Conference USA opener might well be a description of the program's change of status.

"Everything we've done up to this point has been pointed toward getting ready for this," he said. "It's time to make sure everything is clicking and we're doing everything right."

LeFors was a 5-foot-10, 142-pound freshman starter at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge. Only one other school (Louisiana-Lafayette) offered a scholarship -- an academic one.

He sat on the bench behind Ragone for two years, throwing a total of 16 passes before getting his chance. Part of the credit goes to former coach John L. Smith, first-year coach Bobby Petrino and LeFors himself. He doesn't give up.

"I felt like I could play," he said. "All I wanted was a chance."

Smith spotted a highlight tape put together by LeFors' father and brother.

His odds were better than those of genetics.

Larry LeFors grew up deaf and married Susan, who had lost her hearing because of mumps as a child. Brother Eric was born deaf but set national school passing records at Louisiana School for the Deaf. He also played at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Playing on the road in front of big crowds is not a problem for Stefan. He speaks of "turning off" his ears to the roar. It is not any different from turning off his ears every day when he came home from school. Stefan went from the hearing world to sign language.

LeFors has been a pleasant surprise that might not have happened had Louisville gotten its BCS wish earlier. That begs an uncomfortable question: Would the school have taken a chance on a scrawny kid as a project if it was in the business of playing for Sugar Bowls?

You don't want to consider the answer right now. There should always be a place for guys like Stefan LeFors.

Copyright © 2003, Inc. All rights reserved.