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Hes got soul in those cleats
POULSBO This summer, Poulsbos DJ Rowse will take on some of the worlds best soccer players to an eruptive roar of thousands of cheering fans. He will do it all without hearing a sound.
Rowse, 24, is the only man from Washington state representing the United States in the 2008 Deaf World Cup Soccer tournament in Patras, Greece.
This years USA team of 19, with six reserves, sets out to bring home the gold in July and is second to the favored Italy.
I am so excited, Rowse signed to his parents Cathy and Joe Prevost.
Rowse, who often plays defense said he will play whatever position he is needed most.
He has always been very skilled. He can play anywhere, Joe said.
Rowse, who has played on the USA Deaf Soccer team for the past five years, started out his career with a team win of the World Cup in Belgium 2003.
According to the USA Deaf Soccer Web site, under international criteria, players must have a hearing loss of 55 decibels (the noise level comparable to a normal conversation) or more and all hearing aids must be removed.
Rowse said his love for sports started as a kid looking up to the players he admired most those who never acted too hot for their game.
But he had a special knack for soccer.
As a youngster he would kick soccer balls against the wall every day, over and over again, to practice his footwork and agility.
The constant banging on the wall drove his mother crazy but Rowse never heard it.
Rowse lost his hearing at 10 months old, when he became sick with spinal meningitis.
He was very fortunate it only took his hearing, Cathy said.
Now, sitting in their Poulsbo living room, Rowse looks relaxed. The only sign of a ball is the one his big yellow lab is gnawing on. No one would guess there are stacks of free weights and training equipment hiding behind the couch.
His workout routine is still as crazy and daily as it was those many years ago.
To stay in shape, Rowse plays with local adult recreation teams on Bainbridge Island and indoor at The Zone in Poulsbo.
Whats really hard is trying to find a team that can keep up with his skill level, Joe said.
Twice a year Rowse flies to Florida for training with other players on the USA Deaf Soccer Team.
But every day he lifts, eats healthy and sweats.
The team has even taken an oath against drinking (alcohol), Joe said.
But Rowse cant devote every hour of every day to working out.
In his double life he is an engineer with CPL Engineering Inc. in Seattle.
Rowse said he hopes to attain an engineering degree from Seattle University or University of Washington in the next few years.
But he will never give up his dreams for soccer.
Rowse, who played on Rochester Institute of Technologys soccer team, was the only deaf player on the field. This, he said, was where he was first noticed by the 2003 USA Deaf Soccer Team coach.
Rowse also played on the soccer team at Galludette University, a prestigious university for the deaf and hard of hearing located in Washington, D.C.
Ultimately Rowse said he wants to play pro but that might be challenging because of the communication barriers.
I will never give up on soccer, he said. I will go as far as I can, always.
In playing with hearing teammates, so far Rowse said it hasnt proved too difficult.
Its easy to see the plays because soccer is such a visual sport, he said. His peripheral vision, too, has strengthened immensely as he relies on it to read the game and his teammates instead of listening to them.
As long as the USA team wants him to play, he will, Joe said.
Theyre going to want him forever. They are going to be needing DJ for years.
Both his parents say they couldnt be more proud.
DJ has lived with me since he was 8, Joe said. I am his stepfather and am so proud of him. I have never seen a son with such high standards, or the motivation and drive he has. I am proud to be around DJ everyday.
For Cathy, Rowses younger days of soccer ball banging walls have paid off.
I am constantly amazed, Cathy said, smiling. He is such a beautiful player out there. Everyone is always cheering them on.
Rowse said he has worked hard to get where he is today and encourages others to go after what they want in the fullest extent they are capable.
You have to work hard. You have to be very hungry. You have to really want it, he said.