Nation & World

Can blind football player make NFL? He hopes after two touchdowns in high school game

Adonis Watt, who is blind, plays freshman football for his high school in Phoenix. Last week he ran for two touchdowns in a game where neither the other team nor officials knew he was blind.
Adonis Watt, who is blind, plays freshman football for his high school in Phoenix. Last week he ran for two touchdowns in a game where neither the other team nor officials knew he was blind. Screengrab/CBS News

The very first time Adonis Watt suited up as a freshman high school player earlier this season, the other team sorta gave him a pass.

The defense stood down and let Watt run 45 yards to score a touchdown in the last minute, according to the Arizona Republic.

They did it because the Brophy College Preparatory running back is blind.

Watt scored again last week — two touchdowns, in fact — when the Catholic all-boys school in Phoenix squared off against Mesa Mountain View.

This time, neither the other team, nor the officials, knew Watt was blind, which meant his points were “ALL EARNED,” as his coach, Scott Heideman, proclaimed in an email, the Republic reported.

Those touchdowns, runs of 1 and 3 yards, earned the teen athlete a flood of national publicity. Interviewers wanted to know how he did it.

Watt doesn’t think there’s anything remotely curious about it.

Coach trusted me and put me in. I came through and did my job,” he told Fox News, shrugging off the awe.

“I’m just very confident of my ability, my speed, my power,” Watt said, CBS News reported.

“My most absolute favorite part is winning. ... It’s very enjoyable just to stand up and actually just run someone over.”

His mother also downplayed the wonder of it all, too.

“I believe in him,” she told CBS. “This is news to you but this is what he does.”

When he said he wanted to play football, she told CBS, “I said, ‘they are going to hit you in your blind side.’ And he said, ‘all my sides are blind.’ ”

Watt — 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 140 pounds — has played football since he was 5, starting just months before he lost all his sight to congenital glaucoma, ABC 15 in Phoenix reported two years ago when he was playing middle school football.

Congenital glaucoma is rare in babies and young children, caused when the eye’s drainage system doesn’t develop correctly before birth, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. It’s also known as pediatric or infantile glaucoma.

Adonis Watt Video screengrab/CBS News

“When he’s in his uniform is the time when I feel like he’s most like other kids, because they all are lined up, they all have their helmet, they have their pads on,” his mom said, according to ABC 15.

It doesn’t sound like she could have stopped him if she had tried.

“It’s my thing, you know?” Watt said as a middle-schooler, ABC 15 reported. “I started watching football when I was like five. I was blind when I was like five, and I was like, ‘Why not?’ ”

When Fox News pressed him to explain how a blind person can play football, Watt said it’s all a matter of trust — and practice.

“To be blind you gotta be able to just trust other things since you can’t trust your eyes,” he said.

“Those plays where I scored are just specific plays that we run every day in practice. I know where the hole is, where it’s supposed to be, I know where the linemen are supposed to be, all that type of stuff.”

Heideman told Fox that Watt being blind doesn’t “necessarily mean that he can’t see. I’m sure he’s got the visual image in his head of what he’s supposed to do and he’s seen it numerous times in practice. So I think he just sees it a little bit differently than what see.”

The coach told CBS that he was “fearful” when Watt first started playing. “This is a game that people are afraid to play with their sight,” he said.

The fear, now, is gone. Some days, the coach told the Republic, he forgets his young player is blind.

“That guy is a character, man,” Watt’s middle-school football coach, Cedric Jones, told ABC 15 two years ago. “When he first came out here we didn’t know what to expect. Having a blind kid on the team, you’re always thinking safety first.

“He’s exactly opposite. He’s reckless abandon. That heart, you can’t teach.”

Watt’s mom told CBS that her son might have “lost his sight, but he has a whole vision for life.”

Yep. He’s got the plays lined up.

“First I need to go to college, do good at that,” Watt told Fox. “I mean, hopefully get into the NFL, get some rings, get a lot of money and go into the Hall of Fame.”