Tonight I’ll be attending the NFL Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. As usual, I have no doubt I will receive interesting reactions as Quinn guides me through the crowds on our way to the front row where we “watch” virtually every home game. A radio headphone in one ear, verbal details from the environment, and a lot of concentration keep me mostly in tune with the action and allow me to more fully “experience” the game, despite my lack of visual cues.
However, all the way across the country in Acton, California, a 15-year-old junior varsity football player named Taylor Howell is taking his demonstration of “Ability Awareness” to incredible levels which have earned my deep respect. Taylor is the starting center for his team–and he is totally blind.
When I first listened to the story on NPR, I was in awe of Taylor’s undertaking. In football, the center position is (appropriately enough) in the middle of a surging mass of organized chaos as bodies collide to match speed, strength, and teamwork into each play. It is no small challenge to learn to make enough sense out of the chaos to deliver a precise snap under the best of conditions, even when the quarterback lines up five yards back for the longer distance “shotgun” snap. Tyler manages this with the help of his team to give him enough description, knowing the opponent is lining up and moving around in front of him, ready to hurl themselves toward him and past him if he is not fully prepared.
As Taylor says, he takes some pretty big hits, and for him, every hit is a “blind side.” And Taylor knows about being blind-sided–he took a pretty big hit early in life when cancer took away his eyes. But he wastes no time in putting the hits he receives both in football and life behind him, keeping his focus on each goal at hand.
Taylor’s story is amazing, and there are many who might have thought it impossible. I’m glad Taylor, his parents, his teammates, and his coaches were not on that list. I think legendary football coach Vince Lombardi perhaps said it perfectly: “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”