Nightly News   |  December 01, 2012

Deaf football players use secret weapon

From Fremont, Calif., 19 players and the coach on this small football team have brought grit and motivation to the field, using color coded signs and their own language to communicate. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight an example from the fields of play about how to get past seemingly insurmountable challenges and about the rewards that follow when you pull it off. nbc's mike taibbi has the story tonight from los angeles .

>> reporter: they were an undermanned high school football team from fremont, california. only 19 players from a small school , and they're under sized, not one player even 200 pounds, which made their run to a 10-2 record and elite championship something special. but the csd eagles overcame an even bigger obstacle on the way to friday night glory because csd stands for california school for the deaf . that's right. every player and coach warren keller, too, is deaf.

>> we want to prepare the kids the best we can for the rest of their lives. get them, no matter what happens on the field and how much we push them we want to prepare them for their real life .

>> reporter: small but quick, the eagles were pushed to practice fast and play that way. the hurry-up offense with each snap within seven seconds of the referee's spot.

>> we set up fast. we snap the ball fast.

>> reporter: and what do you know? it worked. one bigger opponent after another bit the dust. almost all of them public schools. and the eagles turned deafness into an advantage, using sign language and color coded sideline boards to call plays to that athletes who can hear couldn't figure out.

>> they can talk to each other and they don't have to create a new language where as a matter of fact we might be at a disadvantage.

>> reporter: it is tough enough growing up deaf, but over the space of a dozen football games , these kids proved their metal and their equality to the hearing world and to themselves. motivation?

>> they think we're nothing, that they can beat us and that we won't beat them and they have a big ego.

>> reporter: and reward.

>> we shocked them and then they realized oh, yeah. deaf kids can play.

>> reporter: for their extraordinary season, " sports illustrated " has honored the eagles as one of the country's accomplished underdogs. more important, what these young athletes have already won.

>> what happened on the football field applies in real life . i'll always remember playing football here. of course i feel like it's going to help me become a better man.

>> reporter: a message sent and received loud and clear. mike taibbi , nbc news, los angeles .