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December 2, 2004

Blomquist one tough Point Boro Panther

From: Asbury Park Press - Asbury Park,NJ,USA - Dec 2, 2004


POINT PLEASANT -- Most young athletes dream about making a great play and hearing the crowd respond with a roar. Sometimes it can be the sounds of the game that provide raw emotion and power an athlete's performance.

When the Point Boro football team marches onto the field at West Deptford tomorrow, the Panthers will hear sounds of both encouragement and hostility.

Except for Marty Blomquist.

Blomquist, a senior captain for the Panthers, was born deaf. It's an interesting scenario, considering the amount of communication needed on the field. Despite the odds, Blomquist has become a fixture and an inspiration for the Panthers.

"The kids have a high amount of respect for him," coach Calvin Thompson said. "He is a great inspiration; that's why I made him a captain."

Blomquist sees regular action and has been a starter in a couple of games this season.

"He's got a lot of speed and he'll rip your head off," Thompson said. "We have a lot of confidence putting him on the field."

Blomquist, who has been playing football for six years (two in Pop Warner and all four years in high school), is captain of the special teams unit, and also plays defensive back and rotates in at wide receiver. He communicates with the coaching staff and teammates through his aide, Liza McCombs, Point Pleasant Beach. McCombs is employed by the school for the sole purpose of signing for Blomquist. She helps him communicate in the classroom and on the field.

"I had the chance to work with Marty (as a special education teacher) in elementary school and he inspired me to go back to school and learn sign language," McCombs said.

With the help of McCombs, along with Blomquist's football intuition, relaying information to and from Blomquist has gone on without a hitch. He wears a wristband, similar to the ones worn by quarterbacks, with the offensive plays on it. When the play is called, the coaching staff gives McCombs a letter that corresponds to the particular play. McCombs thens sign the letter to Blomquist, who reads it off the wristband.

Defense presents more of a challenge since coverages are called out on the field and sometimes change two or three times before the ball is snapped.

"I'm constantly watching what to do during defense," Blomquist said through McCombs yesterday after practice. "I know what to do and I can see any changes that are happening."

More importantly, the coaching staff knows when to use Blomquist.

"We put him in situations where we don't have to rely on communicating with him and we can just send him," Thompson said.

After watching Blomquist practice for only a few minutes, it is easy to see why he is so special. Every play is full speed. Every drill is executed as if he is playing in the Super Bowl.

"He is the hardest worker on the team by far," fellow senior Brian Friedman said.

"It's all about his work ethic and determination," Thompson said. "He may be playing against a kid who's more talented but he'll out-work him. He's willing to do whatever it takes and that type of selflessness is what I appreciate as a coach."

An example of his hard-nosed attitude came last week when Blomquist split his knee open during practice. The coaches communicated to him that he needed stitches so he calmly drove himself to the emergency room, got stitched up, and drove back to practice.

"That's just the type of kid he is," Thompson said. "Instead of going home he came back to practice. He's awesome."

Blomquist has never been alone while dealing with his challenge. His older sister Cassie, a sophomore at Ocean County College, is also deaf. Cassie, like her brother, is an athlete, playing softball for the Vikings.

"It helps having her around because she's older and she has been through these things," Blomquist said. "She's there for support and she helps me deal with things."

Blomquist will graduate in May and has his sights set on attending Gallaudet University in Washington, a liberal arts school for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. He also hopes to continue his football career there.

Tomorrow, Blomquist will run onto the field one last time as the Panthers go for their first state title in almost 30 years. Behind him will be a team that he knows believes in him and cares about him.

"My teammates have been patient with me as I learn things," Blomquist said. "They saw me working hard and that I'm a pretty tough kid. They've always made me feel like one of the guys."

"We don't treat him as being 'the deaf kid' ," Friedman said. "He's Marty; he's just a regular person. He's one of us."

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