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HUDDLE UP! How the Hard of Hearing Changed Football

We all know what’s happening. You can feel it in the air. Something changes as the days grow a little shorter, there’s a tiny hint of coolness to the morning walk and the flowers aren’t quite as happy. The sinking feeling of reality that fall will pay a visit, is tempered with the joy that football will be our guest. Best of all, for perhaps the last time this season, our favorite football team has a perfect unbeaten record.

But how you might ask, does any of this have to do with the hard of hearing changing football? Unfortunately, you are going to have to wade through a little history.

In 1856, Amos Kendall became concerned about the lack of care and education the hard of hearing, deaf and blind children of Washington D.C. were getting. He generously gave up some of his own real estate and using his own funds, started a small school that would attend to the special needs of those with hearing and seeing needs.

By 1857 the school was growing and the demands for care outstripped his resources, so he was able to convince the 34th congress to fund a much grander version of his early efforts. Congress in their inimitable wisdom agreed to fund the effort and named the school the “Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf, the Dumb and the Blind”.

Kendall, recognizing that the school was now demanding more time and effort than he was able to give, hired the first superintendent, Edward Minor Gallaudet. In 1954, congress recognizing that they may have created the most politically incorrect faux paus in the history of the country, changed the name of the school to “Gallaudet College” and later to “Gallaudet University”.

Okay, okay, what the hell does this have to do with football?

In 1892, the quarterback for the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf, the Dumb and the Blind, Paul D. Hubbard realized he had a major problem. Every time he got his teammates together to explain, in sign language, the next play, the opposing team was reading what he said. The results were disastrous.

So on the ensuing plays he instructed his team to gather around him, forming a very tight circle with Paul’s back to the opposing team, and he described in private, the details of the next play. Today, and for the last 123 years, we’ve called it the “huddle”. To the best of my knowledge, no one uses sign language, except those wonderful players at Gallaudet!