Defensive back Luis Cureza doesn’t hear the cheers from the crowd at Barbara Goleman Senior High School’s football games.
He doesn’t hear the trash talk, or the distinct sound of one set of shoulder pads crashing into another during a big tackle.
The junior special teams member isn’t bothered by background noise on game days because he is deaf, having lost his hearing when he was 10 years old.
But what some may consider a disability hasn’t deterred Cureza, 17, of Miami Lakes, from playing football, a game he loves and hopes to play in college.
And perhaps most importantly, his teammates and coaches want him on the field, too.
“They accept me and understand my condition,” Cureza said through one of six American Sign Language interpreters whose services are provided by
the Miami-Dade County school district. “They are very supportive of me.”
Gators’ head coach Ariel Cribeiro said Cureza is developing into a good player in his first year on the squad.
“He’s a very aggressive player,” Cribeiro said at the be-ginning of the season. “He’s still learning the game and is playing well in a month and a half.”
Gators senior safety Derek Nunez said playing on special teams gets Cureza’s adrenalin going.
“He plays good,” Nunez said. “We understand him, and he understands us and our plays. He plays hard.”
The interpreters help Cureza communicate with his coaches, teammates and to learn the Gators’ playbook.
On the field, the 5 feet, 6 inch tall, 130-pound player knows exactly what to do and got onto the stat sheet with two tackles.
Cureza’s parents attend his games and root for him from the stands.
Cureza said he began losing his hearing at age 7 while his family lived in Cuba.
His ability to hear sounds vanished three years later, and he said he doesn’t know the cause.
“I don’t know how it happened,” Cureza said. “It just happened.”
The family moved to Miami when Cureza was 9 years old. He learned to sign and is beginning to learn to read lips.
Goleman is among 13 Miami-Dade County Public Schools with programs for students who are visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing who may earn a standard or a special high school diploma and may pursue post-secondary education at a college or technical training center.
Cureza has had an interpreter by his side since middle school.
Cureza said he currently has a 3.0 GPA and would like to attend college and continue to play football.
Goleman went 5-0 this season, which was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.
A highlight was beating Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, 33-23.
The Gators lost the inaugural Greater Miami Athletic Conference championship game in 2019 to Krop, which halted their path to a perfect season.
This year, the offense is averaging 38 points per game.
The team hopes to perform well in the post-season, which includes the Mayor’s Cup game against Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School on Dec. 3.
In the photo above, Luis Cureza is shown during a game with American Sign Language interpreter Teresa Ramos-Stillman. Photo courtesy of the Barbara Goleman Senior High School football staff.