Stefan LeFors (1981- )

[Image description: a white-presenting male wearing a black polo shirt smiling broadly.]
Image courtesy of Stefan LeFors.
Stefan LeFors is the first Coda quarterback in the National Football League (NFL). In 1972, Charlie Babb became the first Coda to play in the league, but since then a number of others have gone on to join, including Lefors.

Stefan was born in Denham Springs, Louisiana (just outside of Baton Rouge) on June 7th, 1981 to parents Susan and Larry LeFors. He is the youngest of two and his older brother Eric is Deaf. Stefan comes from strong Deaf lineage. Along with his immediate family, his paternal grandparents, aunts (2 paternal, 1 maternal) and uncles (3 paternal, 1 maternal) on both sides of his family are also Deaf. In an interview with the Central Kentucky News Stefan described growing up as the only hearing person in a Deaf family (OHCODA), “It was not a big deal that I could hear and they couldn’t,” he stated. “My parents taught me sign language and how to communicate. They taught me everything that was important and treated me the same as everyone else.” Though he is frequently questioned about his experiences, in an interview with ESPN Stefan insisted, “I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I have a great family, great parents, grandparents, everybody. They just can’t hear. So we talk with our hands. It’s not a big deal to me. I guess for a while I was kind of shy around people, because I never really talked to people much when I was a little one. But my parents are such good people, and I’ve learned so much from them that I feel very lucky.”

Along with strong ties to the Deaf community, athletics has been a prominent feature of the Lefors family. So important, in fact, that Larry and Susan attribute their union to a sporting event. Susan was a cheerleader for the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD). She met Larry when TSD played the team from the Louisiana School for the Deaf (LSD). The connection to sports didn’t end there. Susan went on to be a cheerleading, volleyball and track coach at LSD, and soon Stefan’s brother, Eric, set records in football and basketball for the school. Eric has since gone on to a quarterback position at Gallaudet University. Larry recalled that Stefan demonstrated a talent from a young age. “When we played every sport in our backyard, I could tell that Stefan had the talent as a football player,” Larry LeFors wrote in a blog article. “He never gave up and always strived for the best. So I enrolled him into Pop Warner and he won every award that he deserved.”

It would seem that Stefan was at home in this family of athletes. In high school at Christian Life Academy at Baton Rouge, he lettered in three sports; football, basketball, and track. Football, however, was always his main focus. “I just knew football was my passion,” LeFors told the Courier Journal. Though he did well, Stefan was not heavily recruited out of high school. In order to generate interest in his skills, Larry & Eric sent recruiting videos to numerous schools. Only one school offered Stefan a scholarship, the University of Louisville. Stefan began to play quarterback In his junior and senior years at Louisville. Over the course of those two seasons, he led the Cardinals to win 20 out of the 25 games he started. During his senior season he also had the second highest completion percentage (73.5%) for a season in NCAA history.

After college he was drafted to the NFL in the 4th round. He was pick #121 for the Carolina Panthers. He served as backup to Jake Delhomme for his first season and then left the team to play for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League. In 2009, after two good years in Edmonton he moved on to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. View his stats here.

He ended his professional football career in 2010 but he didn’t stay away from the game for too long. He applied for the head football coaching position at Christian Academy of Louisville. Even though Stefan had no prior coaching experience, he was hired and has been successful since. In an article in the Courier-Journal the athletic director at the time, Darin Long stated, “We put ourselves out there a little bit because we thought we’d be questioned about him taking over the program but what overrode all of that was his character and integrity… When he sat down with us, he just blew us away. It wasn’t just his knowledge of the game but his passion for the kids.”

Stefan is married with two children, Luke and Ella. His wife Joy learned Sign Language in order to communicate with friends and family. He currently is works at Christian Academy of Louisville as the scheduling coordinator and head football coach. If he had a choice between calling the shots or playing on the field Lefores remarked, “That’s a tough question.  I really love both.  As long as I have a direct impact on the game, I enjoy it.  As a player, I enjoyed the X and Os part of the game just as much as the competition. Now as a coach, I have more say so in the play calling and chess match portion of the game. The older I get, the more I really enjoy coaching and seeing one of my players doing what we taught him and having success.” In 2016 he added state championship coach to his already impressive football resume. “It was an unbelievable run this season.  We have always felt like we had the team to do it the past 5 years but have come up short.  It takes a lot of things to go your way on a championship run.  Injuries, the bounce of the ball at times, and timing all have to be in your favor to get it done.  The best part of it all for me would have to be seeing the joy and pure happiness in each of our players after the state championship game.”

Reflecting back on his childhood, Stefan shared with USA TODAY  that at times, some of the struggles he experienced as a hearing child of deaf parents. “It was tough at times. I’m not going to lie but the older I got, the more mature I got and the more mature (his classmates) got, also. So they understood.” Though the experience could be difficult at times, in an interview with ESPN, Stefan clarified, “I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I have a great family, great parents, grandparents, everybody. They just can’t hear. So we talk with our hands. It’s not a big deal to me. I guess for a while I was kind of shy around people, because I never really talked to people much when I was a little one. But my parents are such good people, and I’ve learned so much from them that I feel very lucky.”

To learn more about Stefan and his family, his football career, read interviews with USA Today, ESPN. To follow his career as head coach at Christian Academy click here.

[Image description: In the center a hand, outlined in black, signs "Spotlight". A yellow shaft of light emanates from the palm, creating a spotlight. Black text to the right reads "Koda Spotlight".]