Severe hearing loss doesn't keep Kent Roosvelt football player from excelling on the field

Posted at 5:00 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-17 17:47:57-04

At 6-foot 4-inches, 235 pounds and wearing a pair of size 17 shoes, Joe Gavriloff is hard to miss. The 15-year-old sophomore is one of the biggest players for the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders.

"I'd hate to see his parent's grocery bill with how much he's growing and eating," joked his head coach Tim King.

Joe is vying for starting positions on both the the offensive and defensive line, a testament to his athleticism and concentration that he shows while playing with a disability.

At the age of five, Joe suddenly experienced dramatic hearing loss. Doctors haven't been able to explain why it happened, but the teen lost 70 percent of his hearing in his right ear and 65 percent in his left ear.

The situation makes the challenging game of football even tougher.

"I'd say the hardest part is hearing the snaps which is why I usually watch the ball," Joe said.

The coaches and players are trained to bark extra loud for his benefit. However, Joe still sometimes relies on lip-reading.

"When the quarterback is calling the play, if I can't really hear it, I can lip-read. And if I don't hear it, then I'll just go up to him and ask for the play."

Dr. Anton Milo, an ears, nose and throat doctor at Akron Children's Hospital, has treated Joe for years.

Dr. Milo explained the crowd noise of a football game can affect both the boy's hearing and concentration.

"With Joe, we came up with the tricks with wristbands to know the plays. His teammates help him with cues so he doesn't jump before the snap and become the most hated lineman in the history of the game," Dr Milo said.

"Everyone wants me to know the play so that I don't screw up," Joe added with a smile.

Joe wears hearing aides, but not while playing football because the devices could break from the full contact.

His discipline is also on display in the classroom where he gets all A's, except for a B in Spanish.

"Because it's Spanish," he said.

Joe just wants to be known as another one of the guys on the team, but one with a message he wants everyone to hear.

"It doesn't matter what type of disability you have. You can do anything you pursue and want to do."