Maybe the reason Rex Ryan signed off on the Tim Tebow trade was because they spoke the same language.
Or, more accurately, shared the same language processing disability.
Both the Jets coach and backup quarterback have grown up dealing with dyslexia, a fight they’ve won en route to NFL success.
Neither has let the condition be a roadblock, but it has forced them into different ways to learn the game beyond Xs and Os on a printed page.
“And that’s kind of how he plays, right?” Ryan said of Tebow, via Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. “He finds a way to win. When you look at it, it might not be a traditional way, but all he does, he finds ways to win. And he certainly did that against us in Denver (last season), you know what I mean?”
Tebow was born into a family familiar with dyslexia, with his father and older brother both diagnosed. He found out in elementary school and began dealing with it, while Ryan didn’t discover he had it until he was in his 40s.
When you make your living translating plays on a page onto the field, that can be a problem. But when Tebow arrived at the Jets, quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh asked him how he learned best, and Tebow told him by doing rather than being shown.
“So much in football is touching, feeling, walking through, writing it on boards, drawing Xs and Os,” Tebow said. “And all those are the best for me.”
“It has to do with finding out how you learn, and you really get it done quickly. I’m not somebody that opens a playbook and just turns and reads and reads. That doesn’t do it for me. So I just made flashcards, I take each one, and then boom, when I’m traveling, I just flip through it. That really helped me. Writing it down, flipping through and quizzing myself, that was a great way for me to do it.”
Ryan said in his experience, overcoming dyslexia turned him into a problem-solver, and he thought that applied to his quarterback as well.
“I don’t think it makes me respect him more, because I respect coach Ryan a lot,” Tebow said. “What it does is just show that learning disabilities, especially dyslexia, have nothing to do with how smart or intelligent someone is. Because there are not many minds in the NFL that are as bright or as sharp or as flexible as coach Ryan’s.”
“That’s one of the coolest things to hear coach Ryan’s story. It’s something to share with kids, that, ‘Hey, it is not a big deal.’ You can overcome it. You just figure out how you learn, and what’s right for you.”
While it’s easy to joke about Jets fatigue, with the (over)-coverage they’ve received this summer, this is a story that needed to be written, and more people need to read, until the stigma that goes along with learning disabilities is gone.