St. Aug's football player overcomes hearing disability

csmith@newsobserver.comSeptember 20, 2013 

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St. Aug’s Javarous Faulk, kneeling, must wear a hearing aid to communicate, but it doesn’t hinder his play.

TRAVIS LONG — tlong@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— When asked what the toughest thing is for him on the football field, Javarous Faulk simply responded, “Communication.”

Faulk, a St. Augustine defensive end, is essentially deaf able to hear sounds and tones through a hearing aid. But he is right at home after the ball is snapped.

“I’m just able to be me,” said Faulk, who was votied a second-team Division II All-American by USA College Football. “It makes me happy.”

In 10 games last season, Faulk tallied 42 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder has overcome his hearing disability and is now one of the most feared linemen in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Assocation.

When Faulk was only 3 years old in Macon, Ga., his mother, Debra Robinson, began noticing signs that led her to believe he might be losing his hearing. His word pronunciation seemed off, he would try to repeat words back and wouldn’t respond to his name when he was called.

“We really didn’t know whether it was at birth or if he lost it as a baby,” Robinson said. “But the only things the doctors could tell us is that it wasn’t because of an injury.”

Despite his hearing disability, Faulk wanted to do everything his friends did, including sports. As a high schooler, he played football, wrestled and ran track, but Robinson remembers the first time she knew he would succeed in any sport.

“At the skating rink when he was little, he had the toughest time getting his balance,” Robinson said. “When you’re hearing impaired, your equilibrium can be off as well. So he struggled to stay balanced when he got going.

“I was afraid for him, but he was so determined that he would skate like the other kids. Eventually after falling multiple times, he was out there skating better than some other kids. That was the moment I realized he was determined and he’s not a quitter.”

Robinson said her son is an inspiration to her. The feeling is reciprocal for Faulk. With crowd noise barely audible, “I just think of my family,” Faulk said. “That gets me going.”

Overcoming the disability

Following high school, Faulk came to St. Aug’s as a middle linebacker but struggled with communicating plays to the rest of the defense so he was shifted to the line.

“Everything we do on defense is designed with hand signals,” said head coach Michael Costa. “Guys will tap him on the shoulder for specific blitzes or plays, so he knows what plays are being called without verbal communication.”

Tremayne Henry said not hearing the other team can be a huge asset for Faulk.

“Not being able to hear the quarterback means he doesn’t get drawn offside,” Henry said. “He’s definitely a special player who knows how to overcome his disability. Pound for pound, he’s probably one of the strongest individuals I’ve ever seen in my life, mentally and physically.”

Inspiration to others

Heading into Saturday’s home game against Stillman College at 1:30 p.m., Faulk will likely be a higher target for most teams this season and he knows it could be difficult to match his junior year success.

Regardless of the success he has this season, Faulk simply hopes to serve as motivation for other children with hearing disabilities.

“I want to show people that they can overcome any obstacle through knowledge, hard work and determination,” Faulk said. “Don’t let anything stop or distract you from reaching your goal. I want to show the world that deaf people can do anything. That’s one thing that fuels me on the playing field.”

As for Faulk’s inspirations, the senior said he watched YouTube clips of former St. Aug’s defensive end Alex Hall, who was the third Falcons player in school history to be drafted. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.

After a stint in the NFL, Hall is now playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and has 20 sacks in the past two years. Hall played under the same defensive coordinator as Faulk, Tremayne Henry.

“He did exactly what coach Henry is teaching us,” Faulk said of Hall. “(Henry) is a great teacher. If I do what Coach Henry says, it will prepare me to play at the next level if I have the opportunity.”

Mike Detillier, who releases the “Mike Detillier’s Draft Report” each year leading into the NFL Draft, said Faulk could project well in the NFL at outside linebacker with his size.

“I think he could be a late round, sixth or seventh round kind of guy,” Detillier said. “It’s going to take the right coach who’s willing to bring him along at the next level, but he’s been fighting this since he was a kid. Look where he’s got to now. If a coach thinks he’s good enough, they’ll figure it out.”

For Henry, who recruited him out of Central High , Faulk could be the key for the Falcons’ hopes of winning the CIAA crown from the No. 2 preseason spot.

“He’s a guy we have to convince to come out of the weight room,” Henry said. “He’s been working a lot harder this season, and I know he wants to be better than he was last year. He also missed a lot of sacks last year, so I know he wants to add to that total this year.

“I think he will be better, and that’s scary for the rest of the conference.”

Smith: 919-829-8941; Twitter: @RCorySmith

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