November 6, 2013

Facing your own mind

Coahulla Creek lineman Hunter Reed is overcoming his narcolepsy


Drowsy secret

Before he was diagnosed, Hunter said everyone thought he was lazy and “had really bad anger problems.”

“He would fall asleep even before we got out of the driveway,” Wendy recalls. “He’d be on the sidelines falling asleep when he was younger. He loved the game so much, he did whatever he had to do to keep playing.”

After leaving Westside Middle School, Hunter began his high school years at Northwest Whitfield with a big burden. No one beyond his family knew about his disability — not coaches, teammates or non-football friends. And for his freshman football season, it stayed that way.

“I didn’t talk about it,” said Hunter, who is also a discus and shot put competitor for the Colts’ track and field team. “I didn’t want anyone to know. I thought if a coach knew it, then they’d think, ‘Well, he’s got this and won’t be able to play.’ Then the players — they wouldn’t make fun, but — they’d say, ‘Oh, that’s a disadvantage. You suck.’ Something like that. I didn’t want any of that to happen.

“Going to Northwest for high school football was a whole different level. You practiced longer and hit harder. ... I thought my body couldn’t handle it. I wanted to quit.”

But Wendy convinced him otherwise, and Hunter listened. Still, he finished the entire season without telling anyone of his condition.

“By the end of freshman year (after football season), his coach (John Linder) did know because he was Hunter’s math teacher,” Wendy said. “I sent a note to all his teachers letting them know he didn’t want any of it discussed but he does have this. Every year, I send a letter out.”

But a new high school was opening in the Whitfield County School System. Coahulla Creek would open its doors August 2011 for Hunter’s sophomore year, and he thought it wise to make the move.

“When Coahulla started, he thought he’d move there because it was a smaller group of kids,” Wendy said. “That would mean one on one and that would help him more — in the class and on the field.”

Then Wendy convinced Hunter it would be a smart idea to tell teachers up front, and he did the same with the school’s football coach, Jared Hamlin.

“Coach and I spoke one on one,” Hunter recalled. “He said, ‘I know you have this disability. I have this disability myself.’ He was dyslexic. He said, ‘Everyone has a disability. It may not be a brain disability. It could be someone’s home life. Everyone has something wrong with them.’”

Hamlin remembers the conversation — not in full, he said, but he offered the perfect advice.

“I told him I understand having a disability,” Hamlin said. “I also said you can’t allow the disability to affect you.”

Eventually, Hunter told many more of his peers.

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