NAPLES — Cesar Torres plays a fast, sometimes violent sport.
The 6-foot, 225-pound senior is the nose guard on Lely’s defensive line. In a win over Golden Gate on Sept. 25, he made a key interception that led to the Trojans’ first score on the way to a victory.
As he came off the field, Lely fans were cheering and players were yelling and patting him on the helmet.
For Torres it was a moment of silent pride as he could not hear the fans, or his teammates. He is hearing impaired.
“I felt proud of myself after the interception,” Torres signed.
Torres was officially diagnosed at age 4. He credits his Golden Gate third-grade teacher, Susan Outlaw, with helping him move forward educationally through sign language. He also credits his mom, Jenny Suarez, for being supportive of whatever Cesar tries and making sure he gets the services he needs.
The Collier County School District, with funding from a Disabled Americans Act grant, pays the cost of having an interpreter during his class time, at football practice and games.
The services are provided through Associated Interpreters for the Deaf of Punta Gorda. Company owner Jeremy Batten is with Torres during class time. Dalton Amici works with Torres during football practice and games.
“Cesar is a great person,” Amici said. “He works very hard and is very intense. He is a good student-athlete.”
When Torres learned that Steve Crowley, Golden Gate coach, said before the game he was concerned about Lely’s nose guards, Torres and Thad Gillings, he said, “I feel good, it was a nice thing, respectful thing, for the coach to say.”
Torres credits football with making him a better student-athlete.
“It helped me on and off the field,” he said. “The discipline involved helped me improve my grades and be a better player.”
Torres has memorized his defensive plays and credits Gillings and the linebackers with helping him with last-second shifts on the field.
Outside linebacker Mike Snyder said, “Cesar has overcome his impairment and become a heck of a football player. He comes out and works hard every day.”
Lely head coach Dave Miller agrees with Snyder.
“Cesar has a great work ethic,” he said. “He is one of the most dedicated players on the team. He has a never-give-up attitude.”
Miller said Torres is very quick off the ball and loves to hit people.
Torres said his weekly goal is to make more tackles than the game before.
“I want to be taken seriously as anyone else on the football team,” he said.