In NFL Characters Unite, Darren meets Sheila at the Columbia North YMCA in Philadelphia. Just like Darren, Sheila has a stutter that has made her a target for bullies. When she was in middle school, Sheila was teased so often that she made the decision not to speak at all in high school to protect herself from further painful ridicule. She has become increasingly anti-social, refusing to participate in school activities and avoiding the chance to make any real friends. Though she has great artistic talent and aspirations of getting into the fashion industry, she worries that her stutter will prevent her dreams from coming true. Darren shares how he pushed himself to get out of the shadows. He invites Sheila to participate in a YMCA fashion design program and introduces her to a local designer who also has a stutter and who has been able to have a successful career. Together with a group of students, they create a special t-shirt to promote bullying prevention and Sheila is given a gift to continue in YMCA programs where she can make friends, feel accepted and learn more about a career in art and design. By the end of the day, Sheila has more proof than ever that a stutter does not have to limit her opportunities and more encouragement than ever to pursue her passion.
DARREN SPROLESPhiladelphia Eagles
Growing up in Olathe, Kansas, Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles was a top football player and track star. He ran fearlessly, but was always nervous to talk because he stuttered. Sports was an outlet and protected him from being taunted, but he still worried about what other kids would say about his speech impediment. It became a larger issue for him in college at Kansas State University where he was expected to talk to media following his stellar game performances. He avoided the spotlight as much as possible and when he did have to do interviews, he would respond to questions with one-word answers in order to try to control his stutter. Despite his reluctance to gain national attention, Sproles became the all-time leading rusher at Kansas State and was drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Through hard work on his game, his speech and his confidence level, he has made incredible strides and is committed to helping other kids refuse to let a disability get in the way of achieving greatness.