LeFors may not be perfect ...
But the Esks heard so much about the rookie QB's potential, they refused to sell him to the NFL's Oakland Raiders
Vicki Hall, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Monday, June 04, 2007
EDMONTON -- At six feet tall, Stefan LeFors is considered, by some, to be too short to play quarterback in the NFL. His arm, while accurate, just doesn't measure up in the strength department.
But you won't find LeFors sulking over his perceived deficiencies. The highly-touted Edmonton Eskimos pivot believes in making the most of his natural talents.
There's no reason for the southpaw to give up just because he's a flawed human being.
"I definitely don't have a big arm," LeFors said, relaxing in the heat after Day 1 of training camp with the Green and Gold. "But really, I have what I have. I try to make do with what I have."
LeFors learned that philosophy growing up in a silent home with two deaf parents and a deaf older brother. His dad, Larry, couldn't speak, but he could still play catch with his boys in the yard and set up a zipline between two trees for his boys to pretend they were Tarzan.
"There are no barriers in raising a hearing son and a deaf son," Larry LeFors said in an interview via e-mail. "Sign language was their first language, and we communicated fluently in sign language."
Susan Lefors couldn't order burgers for her sons at the drive-thru, but she could still encourage Stefan to chase his football dreams, even if they seemed, at times, impossible.
After all, no one is perfect -- including the likes of Michael Vick, Peyton Manning and Doug Flutie. Everyone has challenges. Some are just more obvious than others.
"To me, growing up in a deaf environment is all I know," LeFors said. "That's how our family operated. We had a normal lifestyle.
Really, it's no different.
"It's just using your hands to speak instead of using your mouth."
LeFors, 25, uses both his hands and his feet to make it happen on the football field. The Louisville product completed 66 per cent of his passes in his senior year of college, and the Carolina Panthers selected him in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft.
He stuck around on the practice roster for a year, but he couldn't convince the coaches to give him a shot.
"The most important facet of the quarterback position is to be accurate," LeFors said. "Obviously, having a big arm would help. But if you're not accurate, really there's no use for that big arm to me.
"If you can get into a position where the receiver can make something happen after the catch on time, then you've got the job done."
Enter the Edmonton Eskimos, who enticed LeFors up north with a $100,000 signing bonus. Size doesn't matter nearly as much in the Canadian game, so head coach Danny Maciocia figured he had found a perfect specimen to battle with Steven Jyles for the backup spot behind Ricky Ray and, perhaps one day, take over as the quarterback of the future.
"Stefan is just so smooth," Maciocia said. " When I first took this job a few years ago, I flew down to visit Stefan and his wife Joy and tell them about the Eskimos. I was really rooting for him to make it in the NFL, but we knew he'd be a great fit up here."
The Oakland Raiders called Maciocia this spring and offered the Eskimos an undisclosed sum to release LeFors and let him sign down south. "I never even considered it," Maciocia said. "Why would I? We've wanted him here for so long."
Maciocia is also big on the character of his new pivot, who occasionally uses sign language in television interviews.
"Some people may think the deaf can't do a lot, that they're handicapped," LeFors said. "I think that's not right at all. They're able to do the same things we're able to do."
As a kid, LeFors served as a translator for his parents in stores and restaurants. He also answered the phone when hearing people called the house.
"Stefan is just so patient," said Joy LeFors, who gave birth six months ago to the couple's first son, Luke (a hearing child). I think that patience came from growing up in a deaf home. He's always trying to help people out."
Should Ray ever get hurt, the Eskimos believe he can help out. But they also like Jyles, a big-armed sophomore who can also scramble when flushed out of the pocket. In a test of raw skill, Jyles would likely win, but jobs are won on the field in the heat of the action.
Larry LeFors has never heard his son bark out the signals in the huddle, but he's confident Stefan will show the world he can do exactly what the NFL thought he couldn't.
"When we played every sport in our backyard, I could tell that Stefan had the talent as a football player," Larry LeFors wrote. "He never gave up and always strived for the best. So I enrolled him into Pop Warner and he won every award that he deserved.
"I was a very proud dad when he was drafted in the NFL. When he was cut, I could not believe it, but knew that God would lead him into a good league. I am very happy that he will be playing for the Edmonton Eskimos."