Photo by Brian Paglia
ELCA junior offensive lineman Gib Pounds is legally blind, but doesn’t let that deter him from trying to earn the starting center spot. “I am considered normal,” he said.
McDONOUGH — Nothing stands out about Gib Pounds, and that’s the way he prefers it.
He’s a platoon offensive lineman for Eagle’s Landing Christian’s No. 1-ranked football team. The junior has a 3.9 grade-point average. The self-proclaimed “sportsaholic” watches about 100 Atlanta Braves games a year on television.
But look longer and the differences come into focus. The way Pounds gets playcalls on Fridays not from the sideline but from the guard by his side. The monocular he uses during class at school and film sessions with the football team to see notes or study an opponent. The short distance between him and the television at home.
Only then does it become clear — Pounds is legally blind.
Since birth, Pounds has suffered from rod-cone dystrophy, a loss of cone cells responsible for central and color vision, and nystagmus, a condition of impaired vision and involuntary eye movement. He’s color blind. He has 20/200 vision with no hopes through surgery or treatment of improving.
But Pounds is undaunted. Indeed, he expected to earn the starting center position this season and fulfill his goal of being a varsity starter for two years. He expects to attend Georgia Tech just like his mom, Del Bentley Pounds, and her father before her. He wants to study sports journalism and one day travel with a college or professional sports team.
“I’m limited in what I can do,” Pounds said. “But I think I do pretty well.”
“Gib is remarkable,” Bentley Pounds said. “He never quits. He just is rather amazing.”
Despite his poor vision, when ELCA started its youth football program there was no question Pounds would play. His uncle, Chuck Bentley, suffered from the same vision problems but persevered to be his high school football team’s starting center. Sports like baseball or basketball that required deft hand-eye coordination were too dangerous. Not football.
“I thought it would be excellent,” Bentley Pounds said. “It was a golden opportunity. It was still scary, but it was great to watch him grow. It was such a great time for him to make friends.”
Pounds joined his fourth grade year and was admittedly a bit overwhelmed.
“I had absolutely no idea what I was doing,” Pounds said.
But he quickly progressed as a lineman. By the following season, Pounds said he felt far more comfortable. Though color blind, he could pick up the contrast between teammate and opponent uniforms. Though somewhat impaired in his hearing, Pounds learned to ask the best lineman for the play call.
“That way I don’t screw up,” he said.
Now, Pounds plays primarily in the second half and gets some time with the first team offense. He hopes next season he’s the clear-cut starter.
But even if he isn’t, ELCA has had been perfect for Pounds. He’s attended the private school since kindergarten, preventing awkward questions that would’ve inevitably come by changing schools. He hasn’t had to worry about mismatched clothing with ELCA’s school uniform. He’s not allowed to drive, but he has plenty of friends who can give him a ride.
“I am considered normal,” Pounds said. “Unless I give a hint, people don’t recognize my [vision problems].”
Pounds’ priorities these days are grades and getting better on the field — finishing blocks, staying on his assignments and getting lower in his technique.
“To overcome what he does and have the attitude that he has really is amazing,” Bentley Pounds said. “He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. It just makes him work twice as hard.”