TOPEKA (KSNT) – Cruz Perez was born bi-laterally, profoundly deaf, meaning he was completely deaf in both ears. At a young age, Cruz’s parents decided to give him cochlear implants, granting him the gift of hearing.

“He hears the same way but it’s processed into digital sound, so it goes into that cochlear device and then into a processor,” Greg Perez, Cruz’s dad, said. “The piece that he wears on the outside of his head is like a little super computer.”

For most kids, being able to hear is good enough, but Cruz wasn’t going to let that sideline him from playing with the other kids. Now, after years of begging his parents, he’s suiting up for the Washburn Rural football team on Friday nights.

“[I] wanted to play football for the longest time, but never really been able to because my parents wouldn’t let me,” Cruz Perez said. “But then, one of the coaches asked me to come play for him as corner, so I was like, ‘Alright, let me talk to my parents.’ And they said yes, so I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do it.'”

“He has asked for a long, long time and the answer’s always been no,” CJ Perez, Cruz’s Mom, said. “It’s a little terrifying…terrifying but it’s bittersweet because we’re so proud of him. He just wants to…he doesn’t want to be different, he doesn’t want special treatment, he just wants to get out there and do what he loves.”

When Cruz puts the helmet on, he has to take his implants out, meaning he plays completely deaf.

“Whenever I’m on the field with my helmet on, I’m not able to hear,” Cruz Perez said.

“We’ve had to work on some special things as far as hand signals with the defensive guys to try to help him out a little,” Washburn Rural head coach Steve Buhler said. “When he decided to come out, he was coming out to play, he wasn’t coming to just be a part of things. He was coming to contribute and be successful on the football field just like he’s been successful in everything else he’s done with his life.”

Cruz is working on getting a helmet that would allow him to play with his implants in, meaning he could hear on the field. The Junior Blues are 3-1 and play Junction City at home Friday.