Tune in every Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. for the WAND Sports Hero of the Week! Learn about the athletes in our viewing area who are making an impact on and off the field! This week it's the football program at the Illinois School for the Deaf.
JACKSONVILLE -- It's hard enough getting a team to execute the intricacies of a jet sweep or a five-receiver set. Imagine doing it without sound.
The Tigers of the Illinois School for the Deaf do that, and they do it well.
Head coach Dave Cook and Co. are in their fourth year playing as an 8-man program, a version in which there are only three linemen on offense. It helps smaller programs field a team (the Tigers have 19 members total, four seniors and two managers) and it's an exciting brand of football in which the scores routinely get into the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Illinois Deaf, as it's often called for short, plays against some hearing able teams, but primarily other schools that specialize in the hearing impaired. They travel across the region to places as far as Kansas, the team's opponent this week.
Most of the students live on campus as boarding students, like Chicagoland natives Abdul Basit, a junior lineman, or freshman receiver/defensive back Kamren Johnson. Some hail from Jacksonville itself, like brothers Trystan and Taylor Mort. The team is quarterbacked by junior Jovany Carmona.
Several of the staff members have experience with Gallaudet University, the prestigious school in Washington, D.C. where the concept of the huddle was first formed.
Click the video to hear from head coach Dave Cook, junior leader Shannon McNeal, athletic director Ed Hoyt, plus see how assistant coaches Robert Hall and Drake Williams help keep the program humming along.