ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WJBK) - A metro Detroit man is performing at the Big Game - but he won't be singing, he will be signing. Kriston Lee Pumphrey is set to take the stage in Houston at one of the most watched events in America on February 5.
"To be a part of something that 100 million people watch is amazing and nerve-racking at the same time," Pumphrey said with a sign language interpreter. While country superstar Luke Bryan sings the National Anthem and America the Beautiful, Pumphrey has been given the honor to perform the songs in sign language.
"I am so excited. It is a huge honor and it is a great opportunity to represent my community," he says.
With the help of an interpreter, Pumphrey, who is biracial and was born deaf, says life hasn't been easy. He's learned to navigate his way in a judgmental, fast-moving verbal world, and has been able to overcome his disability. He now works as an online anchor for DPAN-TV, a sign language channel which delivers an internet-based news program.
"One of the reasons why DPAN-TV was established is because we feel deaf people should have access to information. People don't realize the deaf community misses out on a lot of things going on in the world and in the news. And, to be on a national stage, this is a huge deal for us," Pumphrey says.
It's also a huge deal for his boss, Sean Forbes, a deaf rapper who is the cofounder of DPAN-TV.
"Myself and the whole staff at DPAN-TV, is so thrilled for him because we know that he is a skilled performer," Forbes says. "We know he has capabilities to stand in front of millions of people watching him on TV. We couldn't be more excited."
Although grateful for the opportunity, both Forbes and Pumphrey are hoping this year is different and the deaf are given even more access to the national stage.
"In the past they have only shown a few seconds of the sign language, hopefully they will show more of it," Pumphrey says.
"I would love it if FOX would show Kriston the whole time," Forbes says. "The deaf community would love it, everyone would love it."
Pumphrey is looking forward to representing American Sign Language and the deaf community, but also acting as a role model for young people facing the same struggles.
"To really advocate for yourself is so important," Pumphrey says. "To really represent who you are as a person, and not feel like you are less than, you know. Know that you're good enough, and know that, even though I'm different, that's okay."
Pumphrey doesn't care who wins the game and admits he never knew Luke Bryan's music - until now. But he says he couldn't be more excited to perform in the most patriotic way.
"Just taking it all in, taking in that experience - it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," he says.
Pumphrey leaves Tuesday and is practicing for his biggest performance yet.