Josh Poplar

Bonnie Sloan Courage Award Honoree

By Mike Organ, Middle Tennessee Chapter Board Member


In July 2017, Tennessee Tech linebacker Josh Poplar was preparing for the start of fall camp.

Poplar suddenly lost all feeling in one side of his arm and struggled to move. He was taken to Cookeville Regional Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a stroke and a hole in his heart was discovered. He underwent surgery prior to the start of the 2017 campaign.

While he was unable to play, Poplar was utilized as a student assistant in practice and remained a visible face on the sidelines.

Following the hiring of Dewayne Alexander as head coach, Poplar worked his way back onto the team. The progress was slow and steady, but he gave his all the entire time.

Poplar eased back into action at the start of the 2018 season and by the fourth game was the top linebacker on the team.

He received the Inspiration Award at the 2018 Golden Wings Awards and earned his business degree in May 2018.

Poplar was a honorable mention for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year, as well as a Google Cloud Academic All-District selection, the OVC's nominee for the STATS FCS Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award and a FCS ADA Academic All-Star.

Poplar is very deserving of this chapter’s 2019 Bonnie Sloan Courage Award! This award is presented to a Midstate athlete, coach or staff member who faces obstacles and continues to fight the good fight with the spirit of Bonnie Sloan, who became the first deaf player to play in the NFL.

Sloan earned Nashville All-City honors at Litton High School and then was twice named All-Ohio Valley Conference at Austin Peay (1971-72). Sloan was drafted by St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 but sadly that was his only year in NFL following a career-ending knee injury. As of this date, Sloan is one of only three deaf players to ever play in an NFL game!