Good Sports: Kenny Elder

FRESNO, Calif.

"Kenny's a great guy," said McLane Quarterback Brandon Moua. "He's one of the best football players I've been around. Especially the part where he can't hear, it makes him even more special. I'm just glad I'm around him every day."

Deaf since birth, Kenny is making plenty of noise for others to hear with his play on the field. He has caught seven touchdown passes in eight games this season.

"I study hard and I pay attention to the coaches," Elder said in sign language. "We practice and we try and if something doesn't work we start over and if I get upset I just let everything go and I continue playing the game."

"What people don't see is how hard Kenny works," said McLane Head Coach Pete Joseph. "He's out here every day at practice and he's diving for every single ball. On game days he gives us 110 percent. We put him on all our special teams because I know I'm going to get maximum effort."

Fresno Unified School District interpreter Debbie Hrdlicka is a mainstay on the sidelines of practices and games to help out with sign language when needed. Not that Kenny needs too much help off the field.

"Yeah I know some people think just because I'm deaf - they look at me," Elder explained. "But I get excited and they want pictures of me and I say thank you, thank you."

The Highlanders use a lot of hand signals to call plays, both on offense and on defense, so Kenny is easily kept in the loop.

"You find another way to talk to another person, not by just talking," said Moua. "But maybe face gestures, hand gestures, and it just helps you communicate a lot better."

But it's what he's teaching his coaches and teammates that need words to describe.

"I've learned a lot from his as far as how to work with kids and get the most out of them," said Coach Joseph. "This is where he gets to show off who he is, and really be someone special. And he is. He's a really special kid."

But Elder is not done learning, he's not done improving and he's not done playing football. He wants to continue at the next level.

"I think it will be fine," said Elder. "I think I'll just try really hard and work hard and go to college.

"As far as athletic ability and his work ethic and his desire to be a great football player, I definitely think he's a next level guy," Coach Joseph said with no hesitation.

But first… a message he's been working on in speech therapy this year.

"Hi mom! Hi dad!" Elder said with a big smile.

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