Sproles Joins Sports Legends Who Stutter

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Darren Sproles, of the San Diego Chargers who made history last season by returning a kickoff and a punt for his first two NFL touchdowns in the same game, joins other famous people who stutter in a brochure celebrating National Stuttering Awareness Week, which is in May.

The brochure ' which unfolds into a small poster ' is available free of charge from the Stuttering Foundation.

Sproles is featured alongside other sports legends who stutter, such as Bill Walton, Kenyon Martin, Ken Venturi and Bob Love. As such, he is the 18th famous person. Others include actor James Earl Jones, Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill.

Sproles, who became aware of his stuttering at age 4, says the problem became more pronounced when he was a star football player at Olathe North High School and at Kansas State University.

'I had to talk to the media a lot, and once they put a camera in my face that's when it got bad," Sproles said. 'I just had to work on it. I couldn't really stress about it, because that's just me."

The 24-year old Sproles continues to take steps to control his stuttering. He bypassed potential NFL riches following his junior season and returned to Kansas State to complete his degree in speech pathology. In college, he worked with a speech pathologist to make interviews less difficult. Darren also got advice from basketball great Bill Walton, who struggled with stuttering some years ago and is now an NBA analyst.

'I don't have to be in a hurry to say something," said Sproles, who learned to take his time while answering questions during an interview.

Coming out of Kansas State, Sproles was one of the most prolific runners and all-purpose performers in college football history. He set nearly every school record imaginable - 23 in all - and he is regarded by many as the best player in the 110-year history of Kansas State football.

As a 5-foot, 6-inch running back and return specialist with the Chargers, he ranks eighth in the NFL in kickoff return average (26.7 yards) and 13th in punt return average (10.1).

Playing the game has always come easy for Sproles. The spoken word is more difficult.

'I remember a long time ago my grandpa told me 'don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do anything because you stutter." Sproles said. 'I always remembered that and worked hard to improve my speech."

'Darren Sproles will be a great source of inspiration to young people who struggle with stuttering," says Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation. She notes that speech therapists, school clinicians, teachers and others often hang the posters in a prominent place in their office.

Q&A: An interview with Darren Sproles

Q: TV interviews are high pressure. In a previous interview with a newspaper, you said you found "little tricks" to control stuttering. What are some of the tools that work for you?
A: 'I have learned to take my time while answering questions during an interview. I don't have to be in a hurry to say something. I also ... keep my words flowing."

Q: Why did you put off the NFL and go back to college?
A: 'I didn't want to do it but I made a promise to my mother before she passed away that I will finish school first and then go to the NFL."

Q: The fact that you majored in speech pathology is very exciting. Why did you choose it as a major? Has it made a difference in your speech?
A: 'When I went to college I majored in speech pathology because I really wanted to learn about stuttering and how I can better my speech. I feel from me learning about it helped me find tools to help me out."

Q: What advice would you give others who stutter?
A: 'Just work on it. Take classes and learn more about where stuttering comes from. I remember a long time ago my grandpa told me 'don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do anything because you stutter.' I always remembered that and worked hard at improving my speech."

Q: Do you see yourself as an inspiration and role model for others who stutter?
A: 'Yes, I do."

Q: What advice did Bill Walton give you?
A: 'Take my time when I talk. Don't be in a hurry."