(LOS ANGELES) — The California School for the Deaf in Riverside’s football team brought pride and triumph to the state last year, and now the high school football team is set to be recognized on the national stage Sunday at Super Bowl 56 in Inglewood, California.
The co-captains of the Riverside Cubs are set to join Billie Jean King and and other local football stars as honorary captains of the coin toss, the NFL announced Friday, as the league honors inclusion.
The four co-captains attending the Super Bowl are Trevin Adams, Christian Jimenez, Jory Valencia and Enos Zornoza.
The Cubs players and coaches use American Sign Language to communicate. Once considered underdogs, Riverside’s football team defied the odds with a nearly undefeated season last year that electrified spectators in California and beyond.
“This is indescribable,” Jimenez said in a video shared by CSDR upon being told about the invitation to the Super Bowl.
“I feel honored,” Valencia added.
Erika Thompson, a spokeswoman for CSDR told ABC News that the school is “thrilled” to have its players “defy stereotypes” and represent the deaf community at the Super Bowl.
“I hope this brings awareness of what the school has to offer for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, where they get the full range of experiences in academics, sports and leadership,” she said.
The NFL is also marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, a civil rights statute that bars discrimination based on sex.
King, a former world No. 1 tennis player and winner of 39 grand slam titles, including 12 in singles, is a longtime advocate for gender equality and inclusion in sports and beyond.
Members of the High School Girls Flag League of Champions and the girls youth tackle football players from the Inglewood Chargers and the Watts Rams will also join the coin toss, the NFL said.
“It is an honor to stand with these outstanding student athletes and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX on one of the world’s biggest stages,” King said in a statement released by the NFL. “It’s hard to understand inclusion until you have been excluded, and I am proud to be part of this year’s Super Bowl Coin Toss and the NFL’s commitment to bring us together and make us stronger.”
After an undefeated season last year, the Cubs’ varsity football team won the division championship game, a first in the school’s 68-year history. And while they did not make it to the state championship after losing to Faith Baptist at the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship, the team had already inspired many across California and beyond.
“This grit showcased to other football players and people across that country that the deaf community defies stereotypes, that they can do anything with hard work and dedication,” the NFL said in a statement.
Ahead of the division championship game, some of the players and their coach, Keith Adams, spoke with ABC News through an ALS translator.
“It’s inspiring for the deaf community quite honestly — 11 and 0. We’ve never experienced being this far in playoffs,” Adams said in the November 2021 interview. “The community is so excited, the morale has been uplifted, the self-esteem of our players — you can see a major difference.”
Asked what he hopes the Cubs’ story of triumph will teach others, Zornoza, who is taking part in the Super Bowl coin toss, said he hopes the attention they are getting nationwide will inspire other deaf kids and give them hope.
“We can do anything. Deaf people can do anything,” he told ABC News in November. “We’re not this stereotype that’s out there.”
“We’re breaking news that we can do it right,” Zornoza continued. “And not just our school here but other schools for the deaf can do it as well.”
The Super Bowl is set to take place at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, just outside Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals will face off.
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