On the football field, #32 is a player you wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe against, but off the field, he’s all heart.
Jonathan Edwards of Kuna, Idaho, spent his fall focusing on dominating his opponents on the football field, leading his team at Kuna High School through an undefeated season and onto the Southern Idaho Conference, nabbing the first win in school history. Yet his actions before a game a month ago are what have put him at the center of a story that’s inspiring millions nationwide.
This past summer, Jonathan started working on his senior project, choosing the rather non-traditional subject of American Sign Language. He took lessons all summer long so that he would be able to use his new skill to sign the national anthem at one of his team’s home games.
“We do the national anthem every game, and I thought it would be a creative idea because you don’t ever see anyone doing that,” he explained. At one game in September, Jonathan did just that. Nervously, the team’s star running back climbed onto a small podium and signed the entire anthem as the crowd watched in awe.
Jonathan’s mother Chrissy Edwards says there’s no denying that her son was nervous about being in the spotlight, but she was incredibly proud of the way he stepped up to make an important statement about inclusion. “They definitely put him out there … He had to climb up on the podium in front of everyone,” she said.
Jonathan admits that he “definitely nervous” but once he got started, the teen made it all look incredibly graceful, moving his hands and arms to the well-loved lyrics in a beautiful dance of silent understanding.
The crowd erupted in cheers when Jonathan had finished. Head Coach Sherman Blaser said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house: “We all got the goosebumps, I guess that’s the best way to describe it. The way he presented it, it was beautiful.”
After the video of Jonathan went viral on Facebook, the entire town felt immense pride for their student-athlete, but no one was more surprised by the video’s popularity than Jonathan and his family. Chrissy, though, says she now understands why he struck such a nerve, “I think it a combination of the fact that it was patriotic, and he was putting himself out there to help communicate with people with a disability.” said Chrissy.
“To see the effort that he put in to learn the anthem in ASL, and then to be able to provide that service to our community was phenomenal,” said Coach Blaser, who added this compliment for the kind of person Jonathan is both on and off the field. “The best way to describe him is he’s the kind of kid you want your kids to be.”
Jonathan is considering a career path that will include ASL, stating that no matter what field he enters helping to translate for the deaf community is now his top priority.
What a way to make a statement about acceptance and inclusion! With this beautiful gesture, Jonathan showed the world that tough football players have heart and consideration for others to spare.
Watch Jonathan’s ASL national anthem in the video below, and don’t forget to share.
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