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With budding confidence, St. Paul Humboldt lineman Sam Smith tackles deafness

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune , 11/05/20, 3:45PM CST


The junior plays three sports but football is his favorite. “Sports have really been a challenge for me in a positive way,” he said through a sign language interpreter.

St. Paul Humboldt lineman Sam Smith communicated with ASL interpreter Sue Snyder at a recent game vs. Como Park. Photos: CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com

As a child, Sam Smith could say “ball” before more standard first words such as “mom” or “dad.”

More words surely would come as Smith overcame what doctors said was a speech delay. Instead, he later was diagnosed as deaf/hard of hearing. His speech was affected. Now a junior at St. Paul Humboldt, he wears a hearing aid in his partly functional right ear. But his left ear cannot be helped.

Despite his challenges, Smith made good on his first word, playing baseball, basketball and his favorite, football. This season marks his third as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Hawks (0-2), who play Friday against St. Paul Johnson (2-1) at Bakken Field.

“I feel like sports have really been a challenge for me in a positive way,” Smith said through sign language interpreter Angelina Roslik. “When I come to football practices or games, I really push myself and it makes me feel good to not give up.”

During practices and games, Roslik serves as his personal assistant coach, signing play calls and ensuring Smith misses as little communication as possible. In the huddle, Smith said he uses his eyes a lot and lip-reads “so that it’s more clear” when gets the snap count from the quarterback.

Challenges emerge once Smith gets in his stance at the line of scrimmage. He can hear low-end sounds such as a quarterback barking out the call.

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