How Colt’s WR Michael Pittman Jr.’s Stutter Shaped His Journey – Indianapolis Colts Blog

INDIANAPOLIS – Like any high-level athlete striving for perfection, Michael Pittman Jr. over-prepared for the task at hand.

In this case, the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver’s obligation wasn’t to hit an opposing defenseman off the line of scrimmage. Rather, it was a speech during a recent meeting of the team’s Executive Council.

“I had this speech completely prepared,” Pittman said. “I had rehearsed it. I knew every single word of it…

“But I just couldn’t.”

It wasn’t a question of willingness. Instead, it was something beyond his control.

25-year-old Pittman has stuttered for as long as he can remember.

Pittman, like many people with stuttering, is unable to control or predict when instances might occur. And this time was no different.

“I just botched it up and cut it because I was sitting up there and I was like, ‘Duh, duh, duh,'” Pittman said.

Pittman made it through the speech. He knew what he wanted to say, but he still doesn’t know if it got delivered.

“Basically, my message was: don’t be satisfied,” he said. “That was after we had just won twice in a row. So that was my main message that I couldn’t really get across.”

Pittman’s willingness to step up, take on the challenge of speaking in front of his peers tells you all you need to know about how he managed his stutter.

“He never let anything stop him from doing anything,” said Pittman’s mother, Kristin Randall. “He always went forward.”

Pittman’s development on the field, where he has become the Colts’ No. 1 under threat and is seventh in the NFL with 67 receptions and 16th with 678 yards received, is accompanied by development off the field. He has refused to be defined by an often-misunderstood speech disability, and in the process has become something of a role model for the roughly three million Americans who stutter.

IF PITTMAN FINALLY Whenever he worked up the courage to ask his teenage friend to keep quiet, he wrote it down.

“I had just turned 14,” he said. “I just knew I was going to stutter. So I took a marker and wrote it to her on a mirror. I couldn’t even finish before she said yes.”

Too much was at stake for Pittman.

“I didn’t want to mess that up,” he said.

He did not do it. Michael and Kianna have been married for two years now and have a young daughter, Mila.

Michael no longer worries about stuttering around Kianna, but the genesis of their relationship is an indicator of just how profoundly a stutter can impact a person’s life.

“Many people who stutter will try to avoid certain interactions if they can do so by phone, text, or email,” said Julia Rademacher, a speech therapist and professor at Indiana University. “A lot of people who stutter just look for other ways of communicating just to avoid some things.”

Interactions can be particularly discouraging for children due to other children’s lack of understanding. Pittman can confirm this. So can his mother, who has made it her mission to protect her son whenever possible.

“When I was around, the area was patrolled,” Randall said. “When I wasn’t there I had no control over what was being said or what people around him were saying. I always understood what he said. I could understand him, but others could not. So me and my daughter [Jordanne, Michael’s older sister]we would speak for him.

“I was always at school. I volunteered, I got him housing, I made sure he didn’t have to read aloud so he could read his speech privately to his teacher. I tried to make it so that he didn’t have to speak in front of others.”

Randall and Jordanne were vocal defenders. And Randall’s persistence in getting Michael into speech therapy classes paid off. He learned key strategies for dealing with his stutter, some of which he still uses today.

But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t difficult times. His mother couldn’t always be there.

“Especially at a young age,” Michael said. “Well, sometimes it bothers me, but I’m cool with it. But back then it was just the pressure, everyone was looking at you like, ‘He’s weird.’ Nobody wants to go through that.”

Football defined a large part of Pittman’s life, so it’s not surprising that it played a part in this part of his story as well. Pittman had always been drawn to the game. His father, Michael Sr., played a running back in the NFL for 11 seasons.

Something interesting happened over the years: the longer the younger Pittman spent with the game and his core group of teammates he grew up with, the less his stutter seemed to bother him.

Pittman’s teammates became like an extension of his family. They understood him and accepted him.

“You develop a team of people who see you so often they almost forget,” Pittman said.

But there were still nerve-wracking moments for Randall. As Pittman began attracting attention in Southern California as an elite prospect, his All-American status drew interview requests and significant recruitment excitement. He inevitably found himself in situations where he could get stuck and start stuttering.

“Now when I hear him speak in an interview or on TV, I’m amazed because I couldn’t do it better myself,” Randall said. “He’s a great speaker now, which I never thought was possible. That was the one thing that scared me to death when he was in high school because he started doing interviews and when an interview came up I was like, ‘Okay, come on, let’s talk about it. Tell me what you’re going to say.’ He’d say, ‘No, I get it.’”

Mom and son conducted fake media interviews at home to prepare him for the potential of getting out of situations where his words stopped flowing.

Now football continues to be a source of confidence for Pittman. As the Colts’ top wideout, he naturally finds himself in a leadership role. It’s a position he’s accepted.

“The confidence oozes from the kind of person and player he is,” said Colts receiver Parris Campbell. “He is [lived] with it for as long as he can remember. He knows it and he is aware of it and he can deal with it.

“No matter what the challenge, he will rise because that’s the kind of leader he is.”

RADEMACHER WAS EXCITED to hear about Pittman’s willingness to open up about his journey. Pittman is a rising star who is on track for his second straight 1,000-yard season, and he’s a great face in the public eye, she said.

“It’s not entirely within their control to just slow down, or just repeat it, or do all the things that people think should work,” said Rademacher, a local chapter leader of the National Stuttering Association in Bloomington. Indiana. “So that’s where the pattern of this reaction starts from kids who stutter, not talking as much, maybe not contributing as much to class or being willing to participate in things that require talking.

“It’s just this public misunderstanding again about why someone stutters and how to help?”

Because such a small percentage of the public stutters, those who do can feel isolated.

Pittman was there. He described feeling stuck mid-sentence while trying to convey a thought as akin to being paralyzed: “Where you can’t move. You are very conscious, but you just cannot move. You know exactly what you want to say, but you just can’t.”

But Pittman’s perspective pushed him beyond these isolated feelings. He looks forward to sharing his story with Mila one day. Whatever challenges she faces, her father sees an applicable lesson in his own life journey.

“Hey, not everyone loves every part of themselves,” he wants to tell her, “but you have to learn to love it.”

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