CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Gladiators are on a roll and could soon be bringing an arena football championship to Northeast Ohio.
One of the Gladiators’ defensive backs, Tony Tatum, is inspiring others off the field because he’s playing football and he’s hearing impaired.
“It’s definitely a dream come true. I just knew if I just keep my mind to it, keep working and keep my faith and keep believing, I knew I would get there,” Tatum said.
After years of hard work and practice, the 26-year-old and his teammates are heading to Arena Bowl 27.
Tatum is 70 percent deaf in both ears and doesn’t wear a hearing aid while he’s on the field so he stays very focused, plus he depends on his teammates to give him the right defensive calls.
“They come close to me. They come tap me, basically I can see their face eye to eye; I can read their lips or they give me some sort of sign to understand what they are saying. They make sure I understand what they are trying to tell me or what they are trying to do,” said Tatum.
“When we run plays it can be kind of difficult, especially in a loud situation; he might not be able to hear as well, so we do a lot of sign language so he can understand; but he’s involved. He knows what he’s doing; he’s pretty good,” said Joe Phinisee, a defensive back for the Gladiators.
This is Tatum’s second year in the Arena League but the first for the Gladiators. The defensive back played football at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. which is a school designed for the hearing impaired.
“Disability wise, he’s on the field every day practicing hard. He does what he can and it shows you can make it from being in any situation; so he’s a good inspiration for everybody.”
“A lot of people say I’ve been inspiring them; I’ve been a role model just by them seeing my accomplishments and not giving up on life because I’m hearing impaired and I don’t let anything stop me from getting what I want,” said Tatum.
The Cleveland Gladiators are undefeated at home this season and on August 23 they’ll be playing the Arizona Rattlers for the ArenaBowl championship.