A former Lufkin Panther is shining on the football field at Kilgore College, and he's doing it without being able to hear a thing.
Demontrai Lewis has been deaf since the age of 3 after battling an illness, and although not being able to hear has made it more difficult to play football, it hasn't kept Lewis from stepping on the field to play the game he loves most.
Every time the freshmen gets a big hit, the crowd roars with excitement. Lewis might not to be able to hear cheering fans, but he certainly can feed off the crowd's emotions just by sight.
“He can watch the stands and the people. He knows when they get excited, especially when I make a big play," Lewis signed to his interpreter Charlene Burleson.
Being deaf certainly has its challenges, but never has the challenge of playing football in silence been too much for Lewis to handle.
"I love football with all my heart,” signed Lewis.
That burning passion has reflected in the stats of the first-year starters' campaign. In six games, Lewis has recorded 44 tackles, four sacks, and two fumble recoveries.
With one sense being taken away from Lewis, he relies heavily on sight and come game time, looks to an interpreter for the defensive play call.
The biggest hurdle Lewis has to climb over is when there's a sudden change in game plans made on the field. That's when his IQ of the game is tested most.
"It's not hard to understand what to do. I know every play,” signed Lewis. “It is hard sometimes on the field. He needs direction."
While Lewis' communication may be limited, it hasn't hindered his support.
Wesley Malcolm is a former football player at Longview High School. He knows sign language because he was born deaf. Malcolm has since had cochlear implants and translates for Lewis on the field, while Burleson translates in the classroom.
"All of the people at Kilgore College have accepted me,” signed Lewis.
“He's a very polite and respectful young man. I admire him very much,” said Burleson.
Lewis said there have been plenty of doubters in his life, but he has goals in mind far bigger than playing at the junior college level.
"I want to be the first deaf player to go to the NFL and make the Hall of Fame,” said Lewis.
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