- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - The smile that Montrell Adams sports right before the toe touch dazzles. He never stops, either.

Round-offs and flips the length of a room. Pikes. Herkies. Hurdlers. Tucks.

And he yells. He really belts it out, even if he can’t hear the shouts back. His energy is matched only by his athleticism.

“You are able to bring up the spirit of a player and a school,” Adams said through an interpreter using sign language. “You have a big responsibility. You can change the atmosphere with the spirit of cheerleading.”

The senior at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf is the first deaf student to make the All-State Cheerleading team, according to the Oklahoma Coaches Association. He will be performing at the All-State Games held in July in Tulsa. He is among 16 members of the west squad.

“I was shocked, and it gave me a lot to think about,” Adams said. “God has really led my life in all of this, and I can see that. I’m really happy and content.”

Born in Tulsa, Adams developed hearing loss after an illness as an infant. He attended Wright Elementary and Edison Middle School, and then he took a tour of the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur. It was one of his life’s turning points.

As he walked around the school, he didn’t need an interpreter to communicate. He could speak for himself to all the students and staff. He became a student there his freshman year. The classes are held from Monday through Thursday, and Adams returns to his Tulsa home for the extended weekends.

He doesn’t knock his experience in traditional public schools and has remained friends with many classmates from his childhood.

“Both schools are good schools, and both have good educations,” he said. “But when I came here, it felt like I had family here. OSD is small in number but has no limits. When I came here, I saw I could be involved in sports, and everything is visual. Everything was just right there.”

During his freshman year, he was goofing around one day doing flips. The cheer coach saw and encouraged him to try out his sophomore year. He started learning jumps, mastering those pretty quickly. He started watching online videos of cheer routines, got into tumbling and found his cheer voice.

In October, Adams entered the regional contest with 38 other cheerleaders. From there, he advanced to the All-State tryouts held in November in Jenks. Of the 64 elite competitors, he landed a spot among the 16 selected for the west squad.

“I think I can be an example to others who are deaf and with hearing loss that they can do cheer team,” he said. “It shows them everything is possible.”

The Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1QoDZ9D ) reports that cheer is but one aspect of the 18-year-old. He is a school ambassador and member of the student government, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society and Youth Leadership.

Then, there are the sports. He’s quick on the track and a leader on the basketball court, posting the most points in a recent game.

On game days, he cheers for the girls’ team, then suits up for his game. “I have so much energy stored up,” he jokes. “I have reserves.”

After graduation, Adams plans to attend college, though he has not decided on a school. He would like to cheer on the collegiate level.

For years, he has been working on the weekends with his youth pastor at his church, Praise Assembly Deaf Church, as a carpenter.

“I’d like to do something to improve my carpentry skills,” he said.

Adams has a large extended family in Tulsa, who will be able to join in his cheers in July. He has been teaching some of them sign language, but they have always used “home signs,” which is system of formal and invented hand signs.

“I feel like I’ve shown my family I can do it,” he said. “They know I made state and are really proud of me. I really do thank God and give him thanks.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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