Gridiron Heroes: The Stang Gang
McALLEN – Diego Salinas, David Medina, Joey Garcia, and Benjamin Rodriguez are all freshman football players at McAllen Memorial. And despite not being able to hear, they all suit up for the Mustangs as proud members of the team.
“I love football,” said Salinas through a sign language interpreter. “I need to practice my game for Memorial. It’s my favorite.”
“I love Mustang football,” added Garcia. “I couldn’t wait to join.”
The four deaf students began playing football back in the 7th grade. Now they’re enjoying being part of a program that’s been pretty successful over the years.
“I really enjoy football,” said Rodriguez with the help of an interpreter. “I like tackling, hitting hard, and that’s what I really like to do.”
“The more touchdowns I can get it’s awesome and I love hitting,” said Medina.
The players have some help out there. Sign language interpreters work with the team closely. It’s their job to make sure the players know exactly what to do.
“Without them our job would be really tough for those kids,“ said McAllen Memorial head coach Bill Littleton. “They do a great job of interpreting those kids and getting the plays into them.”
“We want the best for them,” said McAllen Memorial sign language interpreter Bonnie Garza. “We encourage them to go to college and some of them want to play football at the college level and beyond. We encourage them to chase after that dream.”
As a fullback this year, Medina has scored seven touchdowns for the Mustangs. When he gets the rock, he starts to roll.
“It felt like beast mode, “said Medina with the assistance of an interpreter. “I want to become the first fully deaf successful football player in history.”
These young men have a shot to become better football players at Memorial. While they may have a disability, there’s no question they want to succeed on the field and in life.
“I feel good,” said Salinas. “We go into practice. We go in and I do my best out there.”
“It feels really good,” said Rodriguez. “It’s awesome to make new friends.”