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Cory Diaz, [email protected]
RUSTON — Twelve-year-old Jordan Young put on Louisiana Tech shoulder pads for the first time Saturday.
He hopes it won’t be the last.
Young, like plenty of kids in north Louisiana, wants to play football when he grows up.
On Saturday, he and a group of blind students — along with their siblings, parents and teachers — got to experience what that would feel like for the first time when they came to Louisiana Tech for a Touchdown Touch Tour sponsored by the university and Ruston’s Louisiana Center for the Blind.
Louisiana Tech Athletics partnered with the other organizations involved to help make this a special day.
“I’m inspired to be a football player one day,” Young said after the tour.
Eric Guillory, the Director of Youth Services at LCB, said big dreams and high expectations are vitally important for blind students, who can fall victim to well-intentioned people performing tasks for them instead of teaching the students how do things themselves.
“Without high expectations, the rest of our teaching does not line up as it should,” said Guillory. “If a teacher does not believe, truly believe in his or her heart that a student can achieve something, then he or she is not going to instruct maybe as rigorously or as thoroughly as they might otherwise. Unfortunately, for a lot of our blind students, society’s expectations are sub-par. They don’t believe that students can actually go out and take on the world and achieve great things.”
Saturday’s tour, led by Tech students from the College of Education’s Institute on Blindness, was created specifically for blind students from public schools throughout north Louisiana. It took them through every element of the Bulldogs’ game day preparation that hours later led to a 45-30 win over Southern Miss. It gave the students, many of whom are Louisiana Tech fans, context for the games they hear through radio or television broadcasts.
Laura Bostick, a professor in the College of Education who previously worked in the Institute on Blindness and is the mother of a blind daughter, explained that touching is “seeing” for blind people.
“In order to get a concept, a blind student has to be able to feel it,” said Bostick. “There are so many things that we just take for granted, because sighted people depend on our sight so much. While we can see how big a stadium is or how long a football field is or how a football is shaped, but to really get those concepts, blind students need the chance to experience them through touch.”
The Touchdown Touch Tour was a part of Saturday Club, a group sponsored by LCB and the Institute on Blindness, that helps students develop skills and have new experiences they may otherwise miss out on.
“A lot of parents of blind kids just don’t know what they don’t know,” said Guillory. “They want their kids to learn and thrive. They just don’t always have the skills themselves. So Saturday Club started in response to that need, and it brings families together and gives us an opportunity to interact with some truly great families in the community.”
Saturday’s touch tour started with a trip through the Bulldog football equipment room, where students tried on helmets and shoulder pads and explored pylons, cleats, jerseys, and other parts of the uniform. They also took photos with a mannequin wearing the Tech uniform for the game.
“It was cool to try on the shoulder pads. The equipment was all really big,” said Young.
After trying on the gear and asking a few questions of Louisiana Tech equipment managers, the students experienced how the Bulldogs train throughout the year. They visited the weight room, where strength coach Kurt Hester and his staff gave them a chance to do light drills. They followed that up with a trip to the Sports Medicine Department where Assistant Athletic Trainer Sadie Martin taped wrists and gave students a chance to experience a modified ice bath.
Finally, it was time to hit the turf at Joe Aillet Stadium. Several students raced from end zone to end zone and used their canes — which just barely made contact with the post — to get a feel for the height of the uprights. They climbed up the hill behind the South end zone to ring the bell, and then several students took the opportunity to climb the steps to the top of the bleachers to see how tall they were.
“My favorite part was getting to go out on the football field,” Young said. “I got to feel where yard lines are and ring the bell.”
With their time at the stadium finished, the group closed their tour by joining the Bulldogs for the Walk of Pride and followed the team into Joe Aillet Stadium as the band played and the cheerleaders encouraged them.
A special ending to a special day.
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