Former NFL Defensive Tackle Jovan Haye Discusses His Dyslexia and His Difficult Journey from School Failure to Success On the Field and Beyond

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Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities publishes the story of how dyslexia helped to fuel the dreams of ex-NFL defensive tackle Jovan Haye from a troubled childhood to the highest rungs of professional sports.

NFL Defensive Tackle Jovan Haye

It is no sign of weakness to let people know you need help.

Among the professional athletes who have spoken publicly about their dyslexia, former NFL defensive tackle Jovan Haye stands alone in his account of how far he has come, and how candidly he has discussed his troubles and triumphs. Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities caught up with Haye following the recent publication of his memoir, Bigger Than Me: How a Boy Conquered Dyslexia to Play in the NFL.

An article in the January 26, 2014 issue of the Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities e-newsletter recounts the inspirational story of how football provided the incentive for Haye to push himself to become a dedicated, disciplined student both academically and in mastering his sport.

From the time he started school in the U.S. after being uprooted at the age of 5 from the relative “paradise” of living in Jamaica, Haye reports that he felt like "a slow, dumb foreigner who couldn't read or write or even talk” – the result, as he learned years later, of his dyslexia.

“Growing up with dyslexia was just bad,” Haye said. “It was awful. It felt like I had nowhere to go and I just wanted to give up on everything.”

Far from getting support at home, Haye was both ridiculed and punished for his school failure. It was not until he started playing basketball in his rough neighborhood in Florida, and the discovery that he had to significantly improve his grades to continue to play in high school that he found the motivation to confront his struggles.

He credits his high-school English teacher for inspiring his transformation into a determined, disciplined student who ultimately graduated from high school with a 4.5 grade point average and a full athletic scholarship to Vanderbilt. In his junior year, he was drafted by the NFL and played with several teams for seven years before turning in his jersey to become an entrepreneur, who has already helped launch two business ventures.

“Football taught me everything,” he said. “You have to take chances, to take risks. You have to spend extra time to learn from people who are better than you. And it is no sign of weakness to let people know you need help.”

Read Haye's story at

Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Inc. is a Westport, CT-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the parents of children with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit disorders (ADHD) via its educational programs, website, award-winning blog and free e-newsletter at The organization also educates the public about these children’s gifts and talents. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is an Honorary Board member, and Henry Winkler, Golden Globe award-winning actor, director and author, serves as the organization’s Honorary Chairman.

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