COLUMBUS — An attentive coach and state-of-the-art technology has saved the promising football career of one sophomore student at Scotus Central Catholic High School.
Adam Strecker, 15, son of Don and Kay Strecker, of Columbus, has overcome his deafness and enjoyed many different sports since an early age thanks to the cochlear implant he received at age 2.
The cochlear implant is a electronic hearing device implanted in the skull of individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. The device processes sound and sends a small electric current directly to the auditory nerve, which then sends the signal to the brain. The brain learns to recognize this signal and the individual experiences that sensation as hearing.
Strecker, whose hearing loss was the result of a bout with meningitis when he was four months old, was active in little league baseball and has participated in basketball, football, soccer and track and field.
Strecker currently plays football for the Scotus Shamrocks as a split end and outside linebacker thanks to the intervention of Scotus Assistant Coach Jon Brezenski and Cory Honold, of Columbus.
Before getting help, Strecker was forced to play football without his cochlear implant on because the outside equipment needed for the implant to function would not fit under the padding of the helmet.
“I learned to read lips and to watch people’s body language and how they were reacting to what was going on,” Strecker said.
After playing midget football in fourth grade, Strecker took a year off from football before serving as Scotus’ student manager in the sixth grade. He played on Scotus’ seventh and eighth-grade teams, as well as Scotus’ high school team as a freshman.
But last spring Strecker decided he would not go out for football his sophomore year because he felt it was not fair to himself or his teammates for him to be on the field and unable to hear the plays being called.
“I couldn’t hear what was going on, and sometimes I thought my friends were getting into trouble because of the things I was missing, so I decided I wouldn’t go out again this year,” Strecker said.
Brezenski heard of Strecker’s decision to stop playing football, and during a professional visit with Honold the conversation turned to finding a solution to Strecker’s situation.
Honold is a member of the Bionic Ear Association and has two cochlear implants himself.
“I’m Adam’s linebacker coach, and I think he’s got good potential,” Brezenski said. “He does a good job, he’s physical and not afraid to hit.”
Honold is a big sports fan and told Brezenski he would work to find a solution for Strecker.
In the course of the next several weeks, Honold tried to follow through, but he ran into a dead end until he contacted University of Nebraska-Lincoln Athletic Director Tom Osborne.
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“I thought this would be a long shot, but to my surprise Tom replied quickly and referred me to the head athletic trainer, Jerry Weber, and the head equipment manager, Jay Terry, to discuss Adam’s situation,” Honold said. “These two took it on as a personal challenge to help.”
Soon after making contact with the university staff, Honold was referred to the Xenith company, makers of state-of-the-art football helmets.
The Xenith helmet is designed to minimize the number and severity of concussions suffered by football players. Once fitted, it’s patented padding system effectively results in a custom helmet for each player.
Honold sent Xenith a dummy model of the cochlear implant, and the design team at Xenith took a look at it.
“I wish I could say that we planned the helmet for cochlear implants, but this was really a fortunate outcome of our attempt to make the helmet interior lighter and better ventilated,” said Xenith Founder/CEO Vincent R. Ferrara. “What is most remarkable in this story is the way in which a collection of people from different groups all persevered to find a solution for a great young man. We’re excited to be a part of this and wish Adam the best. He deserves it.”
Honold said arrangements were made for Strecker to try on the helmet at the University of Nebraska equipment facility where Dave Lamm, of Xenith, did a custom fitting for him.
Honold said the fitting was completed in only about 15 minutes. Then the process to match the helmet’s school colors was undertaken.
“I appreciate the fact that Scotus Central Catholic School stepped up to the plate and purchased this helmet that meets Adam’s needs,” Honold said.
Strecker has been using the helmet since its arrival in late July. He saw his first game action in the third quarter of Scotus’ varsity game Sept. 10 at Battle Creek.
“It seems to be working very well for him,” Brezenski said. “I enjoy watching him out on the field because you can tell he’s out there having a good time.”
Strecker said he was hopeful but not fully convinced until he got the Xenith helmet and started using it.
“I decided not to go out for football because I couldn’t hear, and it wasn’t fair to my teammates,” Strecker said. “I didn’t have the guts to ask for this and didn’t have any idea I might be able to have a helmet like this until Cory told me.
“I’m really glad to be able to have another opportunity to be successful in football. Hearing makes all the difference,” he said.
Since getting his new helmet, Strecker has received Twitter inquiries about the helmet and his experience with it from two mothers whose sons also are deaf and a deaf student from Europe who Strecker said is about his same age.