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DK Metcalf's ASL teacher says Seahawks receiver brings his own style to the language


When the Seattle Seahawks take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL on Monday night, keep an eye on the end zone. If Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf scores, he plans to celebrate using American Sign Language. He's one of many people - my oldest daughter among them - who can hear but have been learning ASL.


D K METCALF: Well, I took it one course in college. My ASL teacher, Miss Bryant (ph), was very cool and I enjoyed the class. So I always try to exercise my mind or try to learn something new. Now I figured, let's take it a step further.

INSKEEP: So after that college course, Metcalf found a new teacher.

METCALF: His name is Darrell Utley from Tennessee. So it's just been, you know, very fun just to see, you know, him smiling every time we interact or anytime I know something that, you know, he signs to me.

METCALF: The teacher, Mr. Utley, spoke with NPR through a certified ASL interpreter who happens to be his big brother, Barry (ph).

DARRELL UTLEY: (Through interpreter) I'm actually quite impressed with D.K., and really, in general, many students who come to this point where they want to take these classes and sessions - they do have a commitment, a passion and a dedication, and D.K. is no different.

INSKEEP: Utley is an instructor with the Sign Language Center and says Metcalf brings his own style to ASL.

UTLEY: (Through interpreter) American Sign Language - it's a visual language, and as such, you can see a lot of personality come through different signers using the language. So yes, he definitely has his own swag and his own flair.

INSKEEP: Metcalf, the NFL player, jokes that using ASL helps him avoid being flagged by referees for trash talk (laughter). After scoring a touchdown against the L.A. Rams, Ahkello Witherspoon, who wears the number 44 - Metcalf signed, 44 is my son, to Utley. That's OK.

UTLEY: (Through interpreter) A lot of hearing people - when they want to learn sign language, they're like, hey, how do we sign the inappropriate words? How do we sign, you know, this swear word or this cuss word? But, you know, he's not even doing that, per se. He's using some different forms of the language to send a message on his own. So I don't see it as inappropriate.

INSKEEP: And Utley praises Metcalf for learning from someone who is deaf.

UTLEY: (Through interpreter) Me being a deaf person, sharing my language and my culture - he's taking that, and he's cherishing what he's learning. So there's a lot of, as we call it within the community, deaf gain. Some advantages within our community to see that happen - to see a hearing person of his stature use American Sign Language in his platform is amazing.

INSKEEP: Darrell Utley as interpreted by his brother Barry. Darryl has an invitation to the game when D.K. Metcalf travels with Seattle later this month to play the Tennessee Titans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.