Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jamaal's Got Game

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson has big plans when he retires from playing professional football. Rather than taking it easy on some beach or worrying about his investments, Anderson wants to work at a school for the deaf and get sports programs started. Anderson grew up in Arkansas using sign language to communicate with his father, Glenn, who has been deaf since childhood. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Jamaal recently told students at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf “how his father never used his impairment as an excuse, but instead used it as a strength to become a scholar and teacher”. Selected 8th in the NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons picked the 6-6, 285-pounder for his size and production at Arkansas. He had an SEC leading 13 and a half sacks in 14 games during his last season.

But the real story is Jamaal’s father. Glenn Anderson pursued an education even when his family didn't even attempt to learn sign language. He became a top basketball player in high school, even though the team ostracized him. His only failing grade in school came when a history teacher didn’t believe he was deaf and gave him an oral final exam. He became the first person in his family to earn a college degree (from Gallaudet University). From he went on to earn his master's from the University of Arizona and then his Ph.D. from NYU. Glenn has since served on the National Council on Disability and chaired Gallaudet's Board of Trustees. Glenn Anderson now directs the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing at the University of Arkansas.