Aidan Mallory is proof you don’t have to hear well to be a good listener.
It’s hard to find the recent Hockinson High graduate, a key contributor to the Hawks’ back-to-back state championship football teams, goofing off with teammates or not being extra attentive at practice.
“Since I don’t have the ability to hear like they do,” said Mallory, 19, “I have to pay (extra) attention to know what to do.”
Mallory was born hard of hearing. In a childhood spent trying to fit in, Mallory now stands out. He earned 12 high school varsity letters in football, wrestling and track and field and plays his final football game representing Hockinson in Saturday’s annual Freedom Bowl Classic.”
The three-game event at McKenzie Stadium is highlighted by the high school senior all-star game at 7:30 p.m. Net proceeds benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children nationwide.
In times when Mallory was a recipient of childhood taunting and name-calling, the football field is where he found the place he belonged.
“Sports led me to think I was no different than anyone else,” he said. “You feel like you’re around the people you hang out with every day. You have the ball in your hands, and it feels good to have people rely on me. I feel like I won’t let them down.”
Next month, Mallory heads off to Southwest Minnesota State, recruited to the NCAA Div. II school as a safety. He started the past two seasons for Hockinson at cornerback, making interceptions in each of the team’s state championship games at the Tacoma Dome.
But as a youngster, difficulties communicating, especially playing sports, led Mallory’s parents, Sean and Pam, to have their oldest son tested at age 5.
Since then, he’s worn hearing aids to amplify sounds in both ears for what he estimates is 50 percent loss of hearing. You wouldn’t know it when he’s playing sports because he chooses not to wear hearing aids in football or wrestling.
Once in high school, Mallory made a transition to receiver and defensive back. In days of hurry-up offenses and audible systems, Mallory found struggles on offense where the lack of full hearing made a big impact.
“I didn’t know what the play was,” Mallory said. “That was really difficult when (the quarterback) yells it out and there was no hand signals.”
Where he never stopped shining is defense, especially making big plays in big games. In the Hawks’ 2017 and 2018 state championship games, he made game-changing interceptions, including one that led to Hockinson take its first lead of an eventual 42-37 win over Lynden last December.
In the 2017 title-game win over Tumwater, he returned an interception for a touchdown — the first touchdown of Mallory’s career.
Mallory is a Seattle Seahawks fan and in 2012 when the team signed fullback Derrick Coleman, becoming the NFL’s third-ever deaf or hard-of-hearing player later part of their first Super Bowl title team, the teenager found a new inspiration.
The same inspiration he wants to pass on to others.
“You can do anything you put your mind to,” Mallory said.
Freedom Bowl Classic
Saturday, McKenzie Stadium
Games: CCYF at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.; high school senior all-stars at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 (tickets good all day)
More info, complete rosters: freedombowlclassic.org