Michigan linebacker Jared Wangler showed up at Schembechler Hall one morning last month, dragging due to an early-morning wake-up call to volunteer at a football camp for kids.

Justin Mahoney, my 7-year-old deaf nephew known as JT, gave Wangler a jolt.

"Some kids you just gravitate toward because of their energy," Wangler recalled. "I found JT running around and he looked so happy to be there. We went over to him and gave him high-fives. We didn't even know he was deaf. We thought he was just shy and that's why he wasn't responding when people were talking to him. Then, we saw someone translating for him and figured it out."

Later in the morning, Wangler learned how to sign Mahoney's name and to ask him if he had fun in American Sign Language classes.


"I've never communicated with someone who was deaf before," Wangler said. "It really opened my eyes and was a cool, learning experience."

Earlier in the week, Wangler extended an invitation for Mahoney to be his guest on the field for Michigan's spring game at the Big House.

Mahoney, though, seemed to be more interested in bugs than football on his short walk Saturday morning from his grandparents' house.

"What are you more excited about, football or bugs?" I signed to him.

"Football," he insisted.

After the game, Wangler and Mahoney reconnected again on the field and posed for photos.