ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (KARK) — When Henderson State plays in Saturday’s “Battle of the Ravine,” it’ll be the loudest crowd some players have ever experienced. One Reddie however won’t hear it, but that’s what makes his story so impactful.
Shaq’ke Robinson is known as “Shaq” to his teammates. He’s an important rotational player, picking up 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore nose guard. He’s also deaf.
“Communication has been the hardest part,” Robinson said. “I’m the only deaf person on the team, obviously.”
Robinson first played football at the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock. When the school didn’t have football his senior year, he transferred to Jacksonville. He went on to walk on at Henderson State.
“My interpreter is with me on the sideline,” Robinson said “The coach calls my name, then they tap on me and I run into the game. They have signs for different plays, so I know what to do.”
Scott Maxfield is Henderson State’s head coach, and he said he’s never met someone like Robinson in 38 years on the sideline.
“This is my first deaf player to coach,” Robinson said. “Pretty incredible guy.”
Maxfield said Robinson’s an even better student than he is a player.
“He’s got a 3.8 GPA, doesn’t miss any of the signals on defense,” Maxfield said. “He’s just a model student, takes care of his business.”
Robinson is an inspiration to his teammates, and he ultimately wants to be someone deaf Arkansans can look to if they want to succeed in sports.
“He wants to go back and coach,” Maxfield said. “He wants to go back to the School of the Deaf in Little Rock and give back to others. That’s just the kind of person he is.”
That will come after Robinson plays two more seasons. He doesn’t know who will win Saturday’s “Battle of the Ravine,” a yearly showdown with Ouachita Baptist.
“We’ll go over there and play, they’ll come over here and play,” Robinson said. “It’s been a great rivalry.”
Robinson’s message to young deaf Arkansans is simple: they have potential.
“Don’t see it as a negative thing,” Robinson said. “See it as a positive thing. They can do anything hearing people can do.”
The kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 1 p.m. at Ouachita Baptist’s stadium in Arkadelphia.