During his first year coaching the Eagles, Warren Keller led the 19 high school football players straight to a league title. It would be an impressive feat for any team, but it becomes even more remarkable when you consider this: All of them are deaf.
According to the Fremont Argus, 26-year-old Warren Keller, who is also deaf, earned the California School for the Deaf a 10-2 record this season -- the school's best in history. Along the way, the Eagles also won the North Central II/Bay League title, nearly drawing them a spot in the sectional title game, the Mercury News reported.
The winning streak came despite the fact that the team had so few players that some regularly played both offense and defense. Furthermore, not one of them weighed 200 pounds, which put them at a size disadvantage.
In an interview with KNTV, Coach Keller recalled the day the Eagles played Richmond High -- one of their biggest opponents.
"People weren't sure if we could handle the big boys," Keller told the station. "Half their team was probably over 200 pounds; on our team, nobody's over 200 pounds."
Their offensive style mimics the University of Oregon, but with large, highly-visible play boards and American sign language during drives, according to a Yahoo! sports blog. The strategy scored the Eagles 329 points in 11 games.
Keller promotes a "Hard Work Philosophy," which according to the Argus, asks that players move fast during practice, work hard in all aspects of life and respect everyone, especially each other.
With that can-do attitude, the future burns bright. Keller says the past season's momentum will likely continue to build in 2013.
Despite the few nuances that come with playing football while deaf -- like limited communication with refs who can sometimes misinterpret players' quiet demeanor -- they insist they're a regular team.
"We don't do anything different than any other program," Keller told the Argus. "We haven't faced one opponent where we're at a disadvantage."
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A member of the gold medal-winning all-around women's gymnastics team that represented the United States at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerri_Strug" target="_hplink">Kerri Strug</a> will long be remembered as the pint-sized dynamo who refused to give up -- even in the face of tremendous pain. Strug had been the last gymnast to vault for the United States in the final rotation in the finals of the Games. With the US team trailing behind the Russians, a strong performance from Strug was paramount. However, Strug under-rotated the landing of her first attempt and fell, damaging her ankle. Despite her injury, Strug got up and performed the vault again -- this time, landing it perfectly. She <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/jun/19/50-stunning-olympic-moments-kerri-strug" target="_hplink">scored a 9.712,</a> securing the US team's gold medal. Strug's courageous performance has remained <a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/olympics/ci_21174415" target="_hplink">one of the most memorable moments</a> in the history of the modern Olympics.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaican sprinter <a href="http://usainbolt.com/" target="_hplink">Usain Bolt</a> became a three-time Olympic gold medalist in one fell swoop, simultaneously clinching the world records and Olympic records for the 100 metres, the 200 metres and the 4X100 metres relay. His three wins -- his <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qslbf8L9nl0&feature=player_embedded" target="_hplink">remarkable 100m finish</a> in particular -- stunned spectators and commentators alike, leaving one Guardian writer to call <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/jul/13/50-stunning-olympic-moments-usain-bolt" target="_hplink">Bolt's 100m sprint</a> "so thrilling, so astonishingly emphatic, so crushing yet also casual." What made Bolt's success even more impressive was the young man's back story. An unlikely Olympic champ, Bolt was born in a small rural town in Jamaica, where his parents ran a local grocery store.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympic games, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Moussambani" target="_hplink">Eric Moussambani</a> did not win a medal. In fact, the swimmer from Equatorial Guinea did not even come close. But that hasn't stopped <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics2000/swimming/931508.stm" target="_hplink">Moussambani from becoming an enduring Olympic legend.</a> Hailing from one of the most despotic countries in the world and gaining entry into the Sydney games via a wild-card scheme, Moussambani -- who competed in the 100m freestyle -- had not even known how to swim eight months prior to his Olympic appearance. Arriving in Australia, Moussambani had also never even laid eyes on an Olympic-sized pool. But that didn't stop the newly-minted swimmer from giving his best in his Olympic debut. With both of his competitors disqualified due to false starts, Moussambani ended up being the only person to swim his heat. Flailing in the pool, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rqI8xwXVac&feature=player_embedded" target="_hplink">Moussambani struggled to finish the race </a>but he ultimately completed it -- "winning" his heat in a time of 1min 52.72sec, the slowest time in Olympic history. By the time Moussambani had reached the end of the pool, however, he had already won the hearts of millions -- and is still considered <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics2000/swimming/931508.stm" target="_hplink">his own kind of Olympic hero. </a>
American <a href="http://www.runlolorun.com/" target="_hplink">Lolo Jones</a> is a track and field athlete who specializes in the 60m and 100m hurdles. Jones currently holds the American record for the 60m hurdles and will represent the USA in the 100m hurdles at the 2012 London Games. Jones' ability to overcome challenging hurdles, however, has not been limited to the running track. One of six children, Jones -- who was raised by their single mother -- had a difficult and impoverished childhood. "I grew up quite poor but, I mean, as a kid you don't realize you're living in poverty. My mom was trying to do by any means necessary to make sure that we have what we needed. I definitely do not think I'd be going for this dream had I not seen her pick herself up so many times and keep fighting for us. I think that's why I keep fighting," she <a href="http://shine.yahoo.com/team-mom/raising-olympian-lolo-jones-173700703.html" target="_hplink">told Yahoo! News. </a>
Challenging age-old stereotypes and overcoming staggering odds, 17-year-old <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/10/sadaf-rahimi-afghanistan-_n_1269166.html" target="_hplink">Sadaf Rahimi</a> will be representing Afghanistan at the 2012 London Olympic games. Her sport? Boxing. Female boxers in Afghanistan do not have access to a real boxing ring, so Rahimi has been training in a makeshift gym, making do with limited training equipment to practice her sport. But <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/10/sadaf-rahimi-afghanistan-_n_1269166.html" target="_hplink">Rahimi says</a> she is excited to represent her country and hopes to gain "honor and dignity for herself and other [Afghani] women."
Often touted as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0912.html" target="_hplink">one of the greatest athletes</a> in history, American<a href="http://www.olympics30.com/30greatest/jesse-owens-1936.asp" target="_hplink"> Jesse Owens</a> had to overcome tremendous racial and physical obstacles to become a four-time Olympic gold medalist. Owens, who had been a sickly child from a small town in Alabama, participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic games -- an event that Adolf Hitler had hoped would serve to showcase Aryan ideals. But Owens was determined to remain unshaken by the ethnic bias and in the end, clinched the gold medal for the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump and the 4X100 meter relay. Owens was the most successful athlete at the Berlin games.
Natalie Du Toit
Representing South Africa at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/18/sports/olympics/18longman.html" target="_hplink">swimmer Natalie Du Toit </a>became the first female amputee in an able-bodied Olympics, competing in the women's 10 km race. Du Toit, whose left leg was amputated in 2001 after a car accident, is a successful Paralympian who competes without the aid of a prosthetic limb. In 2010, Du Toit was awarded the <a href="http://www.laureus.com/content/natalie-du-toit-0?awardyear=2010&nomwin=w" target="_hplink">Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability</a> for "breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport."
Despite being offered millions of dollars to join other national teams, Cuban boxer <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Te%C3%B3filo_Stevenson" target="_hplink">Teofilo Stevenson</a> consistently refused to leave his beloved country. "No, I will not leave my country for one million dollars or for much more than that," <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/jul/02/50-stunning-olympic-teofilo-stevenson" target="_hplink">he once said.</a> "What is a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?" Many couldn't understand his rationale and many more underestimated his skills as a boxer. But in time, Stevenson would go on to gain a place as a national hero, a boxing legend and a three-time Olympic heavyweight champion. Stevenson won gold for Cuba at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympic games.
British cyclist <a href="http://cyclinginfo.co.uk/blog/160/cycling/chris-boardman/" target="_hplink">Chris Boardman</a> was an unlikely Olympic champ. An unemployed carpenter at the time of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, Boardman -- who competed in the 4,000m individual pursuit -- did not think he was capable of winning a gold medal. His German opponent Jens Lehmann had been the World Champion in 1991 and was a favorite to win the event. But Boardman, riding on a new <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Boardman" target="_hplink">"super bike" called the 'uni-axle,'</a> sped to victory -- winning Britain's first cycling Olympic gold in 72 years.
In the 1960 Olympic games, Ethiopian marathoner <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abebe_Bikila#1964_Summer_Olympics" target="_hplink">Abebe Bikila</a> wowed the sporting world when he clinched the gold medal, running the marathon in a record time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 16 seconds. Bikila was the first Sub-Saharan African to win an Olympic gold medal -- and he achieved this tremendous feat barefoot. After winning the race, Bikila was asked why he had run without shoes. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/gallery/2012/apr/25/athletics-olympics-2012#/?picture=389169169&index=2" target="_hplink">He famously replied:</a> "I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism." Bikila would go on to win another Olympic gold at the 1964 Games, becoming the first athlete in history <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abebe_Bikila#1964_Summer_Olympics" target="_hplink">to win the Olympic marathon twice.</a>
Diver <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Louganis" target="_hplink">Greg Louganis</a> of the United States had to overcome fear and injury to clinch a near-perfect dive at the 1988 Seoul Olympic games. In one of the most memorable -- and horrifying -- moments in Olympic history, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5nqeFWufrE" target="_hplink">Louganis had struck his head</a> on the diving board during the preliminary section of the springboard competition. Temporary sutures were applied to his head and just half an hour later, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWS4MlQxi4Y" target="_hplink">Louganis attempted the very same dive</a> -- a reverse somersault. This time, he achieved the highest score in the preliminary round. He would go on to win the gold medal.