ASHBURN, Va. | “Reed!” ”Reed!” ”REEEEEEED!”
Jim Haslett kept yelling Reed Doughty’s name, trying to get the safety’s attention at a Washington Redskins practice this week.
Doughty didn’t respond because Doughty couldn’t hear. Finally, several teammates went over and tapped him on his shoulder, making him aware that he was wanted by the defensive coordinator.
“The communication between us is not great,” Haslett said. “Because when I yell, I get louder — and he still doesn’t hear.”
Beginning his fifth season in the NFL, Doughty is one of the great survivor stories of pro football, having overcome several gut-wrenching physical and psychological setbacks — any one of which might have caused a weaker athlete to throw in the towel. Yet the 27-year-old with the boyish face is still plugging away, and he is expected to be in the starting lineup Sunday night when the Redskins open the season against the Dallas Cowboys.
“Perseverance is one of his strongest traits,” safeties coach Steve Jackson said. “You can’t knock a good man down, and he’s a good man. He’s had a lot of things try to knock him down.”
Consider the hurdles listed in the Reed Doughty bio:
— He was a sixth-round pick from Northern Colorado, a Football Championship Subdivision school that averages about two draftees per decade.
— He’s had hearing loss his entire life, inherited from his father. It gets worse as he gets older. It stumped the coaches when he was a rookie in 2006.
“For a guy to be so smart, he used to always make a lot of mistakes. And no one knew why. You look at him, and every time you say something, he’s really looking at you at your face and everything. And you’re like, ‘Gah, he really pays attention. Why doesn’t he know anything? He must be a dumb son of a …,’” said Jackson, his voice trailing off into a laugh.
“But he was looking at you,” Jackson continued, “to read your lips.”
Jackson realized he should no longer talk while writing on the whiteboard during meetings — because his back was turned to Doughty. Jackson therefore developed a whole new different rhythm: Write something, turn to speak, write something, turn to speak.
“His play picked up,” said Jackson, snapping his fingers, “like that.”
— Also in 2006, Doughty’s son Micah was born six weeks prematurely and had chronic kidney failure. After long days of practice and meetings at Redskins Park, Doughty would go home and help his wife hook up their son to a dialysis machine. When Micah was 19 months old, he had finally grown enough to accept a kidney transplant. The donor was Doughty’s wife, Katie.
Micah turned 4 last week. Doughty beamed with pride at the mention of the milestone.