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Hometown hero: Gimeli's drive an unstoppable force

Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010 by Jim Doyle

Growing up, Michael Gimeli was far from your typical football player. Born deaf, he faced challenges that most did not. But Gimeli, a starting full back at Gallaudet University - a college in Washington D.C. for the hearing-impaired - found a way to succeed.

"I never felt like being deaf would hold me back from anything," said Gimeli, who hails from Deer Park. "I had tons of support from my family and friends at everything I've done."

Gimeli attributed his success in football to Deer Park coach Ron Langella and strength coach John Furia and credited his ability to live a life among the hearing to several of his high school teachers.

"I was brought up in a hearing community and was mainstreamed in a regular school thanks to Ms. Tedeschi and Mrs. Lopalo," he said.

Gimeli's mother Corinne was nervous when she learned her son wanted to play football.

"It was rough going early, but I got used to it," she said. "I love football now."

His success on the field notwithstanding, there were obstacles. During his Deer Park days quarterback Nick Donofrio would stand in front of Gimeli in the huddle so it would be easier for Gimeli to read his lips.

"I had to stare at the ball being snapped in order for me to know when the play starts," Gimeli said.

Knowing when a play starts and stops is just a small sampling of what Gimeli goes through. He didn't use sign language growing up, but he had to learn it quickly in order to attend Gallaudet. "He didn't sign growing up because we didn't want him to rely too much on it and not learn how to talk," Corinne said.

Of the 14 coaches on the Gallaudet staff, four are deaf or hard of hearing. The team is also assigned an interpreter, who attends meetings and practices to help with communication.

Gimeli's drive to succeed wasn't solely derived from within. Former MLB outfielder Curtis Pride, who is deaf, served as motivation.

Gimeli and his mother watched Pride during a television interview when Gimeli was about 6 years old and came away impressed with Pride's story of perseverance.

"He was so amazed that a professional athlete was deaf," Corrine said of Pride, who is the baseball coach at Gallaudet.

Watching Pride talk about his family life and how he was treated like a normal child was huge for Gimeli. "My mother and I sat down and listened to him, how he grew up and how he made it," Gimeli said. "That inspired me a whole lot."

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