How Legally Blind Athlete Aaron Golub Reached His College Football Dream

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How Legally Blind Athlete Aaron Golub Reached His College Football Dream
Image via 247Sports

The whole thing is one enormous inconvenience. Not the fact that Aaron Golub is completely blind in his right eye and deals with restricted vision in his left, but that he’s talking to an anxious college football writer between classes.

“Personally, if I’m being honest, I hate all this stuff,” Golub says with a hint of laughter and an even bigger hint of frustration. “I can’t stand the attention. I just like playing football.”

To us, it’s a story. In fact, to everyone beyond the person creating the story—the one rising well before the sun comes up to practice his craft—it’s worth celebrating. To Golub, a soon-to-be preferred walk-on at Tulane, this is simply the next step. It’s his calculated and thought-out approach to continue playing the sport he loves, and the entire thing has come together brilliantly.

Golub, a senior at Newton High School just outside Boston, was born legally blind. This hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the premier long-snapper recruits in the nation: 247Sports rates Golub as the No. 12 long snapper nationally and the No. 19 player in all of Massachusetts.

In two years of long snapping at the high school level, Golub has had one bad snap, according to his coach. When asked if he can recall this lone mistake, Golub wasted little time pinpointing it.

“It went low,” Golub said, leaving it at that, knowing the one snap being referenced. I suppose if you’re being asked about your one bad snap over multiple years, not much more needs to be said.

This isn’t by accident. To be regarded this highly—with normal vision—you need natural gifts, an incredible amount of practice and some luck. With limited sight, an enormous currency in the sport, you need that and something more.

In the instance of Golub, that something is passion. There’s much more to it than that, of course, but it begins there.

“I love everything about it, just the whole game,” Golub said while speaking about football. “It’s fun to play, to watch and certainly to be a part of.”

Golub took up the sport in seventh grade, immersing himself despite some initial concerns about whether this was a good fit because of his blindness. After some discussion, his parents and coaches both supported his decision to play. It was during his sophomore year of high school, however, where everything changed. It was then he started long snapping.

This wasn’t some mid-slumber epiphany. This was a realistic understanding of what it would take to play football a little longer.

“I knew that if I wanted to play in college, I wouldn’t be able to do what I was before,” Golub said on why he decided to take up long snapping. “Not many people get the opportunity to continue playing the game.”

If you’ve never long snapped before, do yourself a favor and try it. Please hide all small animals, children and fragile objects before you do, though, because it will almost certainly not go well initially. Like trying to jump to the other roof in your first voyage into The Matrix, the movements and memory necessary to complete such actions don’t come easy.

It is a football art—one often taken for granted. For one to get good at long snapping—not backyard, beer-in-the-other-hand good, but really good—it takes hundreds of hours and thousands of reps. It doesn’t hurt to have a good coach help you get there.

That’s where Chris Rubio comes in. A long-snapping guru and instructor who has written about working with Golub at his blog, Rubio has watched the transformation occur and has been integral to his development.

“He was adamant about learning the process,” Rubio said on Golub. “He was in constant contact with me, asking what to do and how to fix this and that. It is absolutely amazing how far he has come.”

He learned. He succeeded. He failed. He tried again. He improved. Oh, did he improve. His first camp did not go particularly well, although his next one got better. And then, after more reps and coaching, the next camp got even better.

It’s gotten to the point now where few are better than Golub at his position, something that has quickly become abundantly clear for the man who helped him get that way.

“When he is on, he is very close with the great ones,” Rubio said on Golub. “He’s a true student of long snapping and an inspiration to all. Those with or without sight can learn from this young man.”

While Golub has worked tirelessly with Rubio, stretching all the way back to July of 2012, he’s also put in plenty of work on his own to get to this point. In fact, before Golub enjoys his first class on a normal school day—about the time most high school seniors are still deep in REM sleep—he’s already hard at work.

Golub is typically long snapping in the school by 6 a.m. at the latest each morning. He’ll practice for at least an hour. Then it’s off to class. After school, he’ll head to the gym, where he’ll get his lift in, looking to add to his 6'2", 195-pound frame.

All the work has come full circle in interest from schools across the country. While Golub spoke with plenty of different coaches, Illinois and Tulane offered him a spot on the team as a preferred walk-on. In the end, he picked Tulane.

“It’s just a good fit for me,” Golub said on Tulane. “The whole atmosphere and the school; it’s something that I want to be a part of. Academically, it’s also a great fit for me.”

This, too, is part of the plan. Although Golub has learned an entirely different position in less than two years in order to keep his football career in motion, he has also kept his priorities in order along the way.

“I’m going to school to be a student, not to be an athlete,” Golub said. “I wanted to find a school that I’d be happy with regardless of what happens with football.”

He has found that at Tulane, and with it he has found the answer to everything he has searched for and worked for.

All Golub wants to do is go to school, get an education and play football. Now, regardless of whether he starts right away or ever sees the field at all, he’ll be able to do that a little longer. That’s more than just about any high school football player can say—even those working with two perfect eyes.

I went into this conversation thinking it would be all about a young man with limited vision defying all odds, somehow playing a sport that is built around seeing what’s behind or in front of you.

It is a great story—one that is fascinating for those of us who can only imagine what life would be like—but it’s not a story he’s anxious to tell, and that part is especially telling. The interviews, the coverage, the tape recorders are all simply getting in the way.

The reality of the situation is that Golub’s blindness in one eye and near blindness in the other is only a small portion of his remarkable journey, one that is still unfolding.

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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