On Dec. 28, two days before the University of Washington football team was scheduled to compete in the Fiesta Bowl, Huskies players and coaches visited with about 50 children from Arizona Special Olympics in Scottsdale, Arizona.
UW redshirt sophomore wide receiver Josh Rasmussen was asked by a Huskies staff member to meet and talk with one of the children, a deaf boy.
“I had only taken one quarter of (sign language), so I wasn’t super familiar with it, but I was able to ask him some basic stuff,” said Rasmussen, a 2015 graduate of Lake Stevens High School. “It was a cool experience to have the opportunity to use my skills outside of class.”
The Pac-12 Network captured the conversation on video, which turned into a popular piece of social media. The video has received 121,000 views and 2,157 “likes” on the Fiesta Bowl’s Twitter account.
A clip of the video also was shown by ESPN during the Fiesta Bowl broadcast, followed by a live shot of Rasmussen on the sideline.
“I was surprised that it took off like that,” Rasmussen said. “It’s humbling to have a platform as a student-athlete to help raise awareness for issues like these.”
— PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (@Fiesta_Bowl) December 28, 2017
Rasmussen’s interest in sign language happened somewhat by chance. Before the start of this school year, he changed his major from business to communications, which meant he had to take a year’s worth of foreign language classes.
“I chose sign language because a lot of the guys on the football team had taken it, and I felt like it would be an interesting class to take, and it has been,” he said. “It’s weird to not be able to use your voice, but you learn to use body language and gestures to communicate. We also learn a lot about the culture and the things (deaf people) go through.”
Rasmussen currently is taking his second sign language class, and will take a third in the spring. He said he could take more classes next year as well.
“I’m still on beginner-level stuff, but I think with more practice and learning I can get better and more fluent,” he said. “One of the challenges is that different signs can look similar, so you could be signing one thing and mean something else.”
Rasmussen walked on to the UW football team in 2015, redshirting his freshman year. He spent the past two seasons primarily on the scout team, helping the Huskies’ defensive players prepare for their next game.
He’s hoping to eventually earn some playing time on special teams.
“Being a walk-on is a challenging role,” he said. “You just have to go out there every day and attack it and do your job and accept what comes and keep working hard. If you do that, hopefully coaches can see the impact you’re having, and hopefully that will lead to time on the field.”
But no matter what ends up happening on the football field, Rasmussen has enjoyed his time at UW.
“I don’t think there’s anywhere else I’d rather be,” he said. “The academics are great, my social life is great, and being a part of the football team is something special.”