NKY football player born deaf beats the odds

Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 8:41 AM EDT
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Dixie Heights, Ky. (WXIX) - A recent high school graduate from Northern Kentucky who was born deaf achieves a childhood dream.

Brayden Stewart was a self-made starting offensive lineman at Dixie Heights High School and the football team captain. Now the Northern Kentucky All-Star is heading toward his future at Gallaudet University, a school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“I couldn’t be prouder of a kid, you know? Not only as a dad but as a football coach,” Brayden’s father William said. “He’s done great. I couldn’t ask for a better leader for our football team, an example for our kids coming up.”

It started with a letter Brayden wrote as a 10-year-old to Gallaudet for a persuasive writing assignment:

“Dear Gallaudet University,

I’m a deaf 10-year-old boy named Brayden Stewart. I would like to attend Gallaudet because I would like to do Deaf Studies and Mathematics. I get A’s and B’s. There’s no deaf universities in Kentucky. Thank you for reading this letter.”

“I’m very proud of myself,” Brayden said. “It’s not something that everyone can achieve. It’s a real honor that I made it this far.”

Born prematurely, doctors diagnosed Brayden as profoundly deaf.

“It means I’m 100% deaf. I can’t hear with my cochlear implants off,” Brayden explains.

As a toddler, he needed surgeries and learned to live with hearing devices but Brayden says he never needed sympathy.

Growing up, Brayden wanted to play sports, and with a helmet designed to fit cochlear implants, he became involved with football.

“Any time that he’s ever been told ‘no’ - at every turn - he’s defeated the odds. With his education, social, and now with football,” William said. “And, so, any time he’s been told, ‘no, you can’t do it,’ ‘the best part about being deaf is, you don’t have to listen.’”

William says that he and his son used to watch Ray Lewis’s speeches on YouTube before practice to pump them up. An ad popped up with a deaf NFL football player who used a great line about doubters, “The best part about being deaf is that you don’t have to listen.”

They liked that line and it became Brayden’s motivation to beat the odds.

“I never let my deafness, like, stop me or, like, deep down, like, never made me sad or angry. It’s, like, part of who I am and I just kept doing what I was doing,” Brayden said.

Dixie Heights High School’s head football coach Patrick Burke says that Brayden never let being born deaf stop him from achieving.

“He’s amazing. He’s an amazing kid. He’s an amazing student. He has made no excuses for his challenges in life,” Burke said.

“There’s no excuse, right? If you dream it, you can achieve it. If you put the work in, you’re going to be successful and he’s done that every day.”

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