Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Stefan LeFors Charms KSD Students

Remember the gorgeous athlete whose parents, brother and many more are Deaf? Yep, Louisville's Quarterback Stefan LeFors visited Kenfucky School for the Deaf and charmed the students and everyone else -- converting many of 'em into UL fans, away from Byron Wilson's infatuation with UK.

For some of you, UK is U of Kentucky. UL is U of Louisville. It is college football thing, really.

UL Quarterback Stefan LeFors

Here is the article out of Danville, Kenfucky.

Stefan LeFors is absolutely great person. I'm impressed, 'nuff said.

* * *

From the newsroom of The Advocate-Messenger, Danville, Kentucky, Sunday, February 13, 2005 .....

Louisville's LeFors relates well to KSD students

Sports Editor

Since he's always been part of the deaf community, Stefan LeFors knew a little bit about what to expect when he came to Kentucky School for the Deaf Friday.

LeFors grew up expressing himself without words because his parents, brother, paternal grandparents and three uncles were deaf.

"It was not a big deal that I could hear and they couldn't," said LeFors. "My parents taught me sign language and how to communicate. They taught me everything that was important and treated me the same as everyone else."

Still, LeFors was not just another visitor here Friday. The KSD students knew him as the starting quarterback for No. 6 Louisville and were thrilled that he spent an hour here with them along with teammate Bobby Leffew, a former Boyle County all-state lineman who started in Louisville's defensive line.

LeFors threw for almost 6,000 yards and 38 touchdowns during his collegiate career. More importantly, he led Louisville into elite territory in 2004 when the Cards lost only at Miami.

Many at KSD know his mother

The KSD students and faculty also knew him for another reason - his mother, Susan, is the cheerleading coach at Louisiana School for the Deaf. KSD plays in the Mason-Dixon Tournaments each basketball season and many people, including KSD athletics director Paul Smiley, have known her for years.

LeFors' older brother, Eric, was also a record-setting quarterback at Louisiana School for the Deaf before going to Gallaudet College. His successor as quarterback at Gallaudet was KSD product Chris Harris. Eric LeFors is now a coach and teacher at Florida School for the Deaf and recently played golf with Billy Lange, a teacher at KSD who got to meet the Louisville quarterback Friday.

"It was an honor to come here and talk and meet these kids," LeFors said. "I feel like I have a connection with these guys. All my life I have been around the deaf school in Louisiana and I've always had a good time there. This brings back good memories.

"I feel like they all know me from watching me play, but I don't really know them. The deaf community is not very big. A lot of them share the same interests, especially since deaf schools compete against each other in sports. It seems like they all knew my mom, who has probably coached 20 years. It was fun for me to meet so many people who know her. Actually, my mom and brother are their heroes. I'm just one of the guys."

Based on the way the KSD students asked specific questions about his career and lined up to get his autograph, LeFors underestimated his impact on them.

He signed all his answers

He signed all his remarks to them and had an interpreter speak his words for the hearing audience. His wife, Joy, who met him in high school in Louisiana, also was fluent in sign language and interacted with many students and staff members.

ESPN aired a special on LeFors and his family that many of the KSD students had seen.

"I was proud they did that," LeFors said. "I got a lot of compliments and e-mails from people all over the country who were impressed by the story."

His story reads like a fairy tale. Not only did he have deaf parents, but he played at Christian Life Academy and no major college showed interest in him. His father sent videotapes to numerous colleges but Louisville was the only school to offer him a scholarship.

"I was small and was told I was not big enough to play college football," LeFors, who recently played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

He was redshirted his first year, then got in five games as a redshirt freshman and completed three passes. In 2002, he played in only three games.

However, he blossomed into a star in 2003 when he threw for 3,145 yards and 17 touchdowns, including 180 yards and one touchdown in a season-opening win over Kentucky. Last season he threw for 2,596 yards and 20 scores, including 139 yards and a touchdown in another win over Kentucky.

"We destroyed UK. What was wrong with UK?" LeFors joked with the KSD students who supported Kentucky.

His story turned many into Louisville fans

LeFors said his story has helped sway many fans to support Louisville.

"I have a lot of people tell me they were UK fans or fans of another school, then they heard my story and became Louisville fans," LeFors said. "That's nice to know and I appreciate the support from all those people."

He's now working out four days a week in preparation for the NFL Combine Feb. 24 in Indianapolis. After that he'll work out for the NFL scouts again in Louisville in early March.

"We've been training really hard. This is a stressful time with the combine coming up and then the (NFL) draft," LeFors said. "I am looking forward to what is ahead, but I'm still kind of anxious to see where I will end up."

That constant anxiety is one reason he's glad he is married.

"For me, she is my life," LeFors said. "I go home and she's there to take my mind off football. She is also my biggest fan. I don't know what I would do without her."

Pay attention to grades and don't get discouraged

LeFors and Leffew both encouraged the students to pay attention to their grades and not get discouraged when things did not go their way. Leffew related a series of injuries he had to overcome to succeed and how then Boyle football coach Chuck Smith made him understand that without good grades, he wouldn't get the chance to use his athletic talent in college.

"Don't listen to negative comments. Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do," LeFors said. "You've got to think positive and be confident in yourself."

LeFors is following his own advice. He's convinced he can succeed in the NFL even if he's only 6-feet tall, several inches shorter than most pro scouts like.

"My goal is to get to the NFL," he said. "I will do whatever it takes even if it means going to the CFL (Canadian Football League) or Arena League. I will do what it takes.

"It's been great coming out of nowhere and making it at Louisville, but it's not over yet. I've enjoyed every minute of my athletic career. I'm just glad I could share some of that with these kids today because I can relate to them and if I inspired just one of them to try a little harder or believe in himself a little more, then this has been a great day."

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