Packers defensive backs coach Joe Whitt Jr. makes a living teaching Xs and Os.
But because they often look likes Os and Xs to him, he has had to take different steps toward his goal.
Whitt struggles with dyslexia, but is open about the challenges, and wants to help others who might be ashamed to get the accomodations they need. That’s why he’s spending his summer encouraging kids to read as part of a library campaign.
“I want to get kids to know that it’s cool to read,” Whitt told Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Right now, especially in the black community, there are too many kids who think the only thing they can do is play football, basketball, or be a rapper or a singer, or an entertainer to make it out of their situation.
“I don’t think it’s said enough, so I’ll say it. I want kids to realize, you can be smart – and still have a learning disability. You have to work around it.”
Such learning disabilities are more common than most realize, and Whitt’s a good example of how to deal with them. He’ll listen to books on tape, but he also slogs through printed pages because he wants his kids to see him reading. When he was in school, graduation speeches and presentations were memorized, since relying on notes would have complicated the process rather than made it easier.
“It’s a curse. But it’s a gift at the same time,” said Whitt. “You just have to not be afraid to get help. And then you can flourish from there.”
Too often, students and athletes alike aren’t properly diagnosed. That creates an uphill climb for many, who are often characterized as less intelligent than they may be. Whitt knows that stigma too well, and is using his position to educate others.