NEW YORK – Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman has been deaf since he was three years old, but determination and hearing aids have helped him live a dream by reaching Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“I don’t use it as an excuse. It has never held me back,” Coleman said.
“If you have a disability you might have to work extra hard but you can do anything. No matter what your dreams are you can achieve them.
“I’m in the Super Bowl and the sky is the limit.”
Coleman hears vague tones but with hearing aids amplifying voices and uncanny lip reading skill, he has been able to compehend signals and reach the National Football League pinnacle in Sunday’s title game against Denver.
“It was tough,” Coleman said. “There were unique obstacles I had to go through. Everybody on this team and the Denver Broncos, we all had some tough obstacles.
“The difference is that we overcame it all. We didn’t let it hold us back in anything we did. We set our goal and we finally accomplished it.”
At age three, Coleman’s hearing began to fade. “It just up and left,” he said. “We still don’t know the reason.”
Children teased him and sent him home in tears.
“I had times I was down,” he said. “My mom had to go knocking on doors. She told me I had to prove them wrong. When people tell you you can’t do something, that’s motivation. I can achieve if I put my mind to it like anybody else.
“Everybody in the world has problems. That’s where the hard work comes in. It has what made me who I am.”
Coleman studied political science in college and hopes to get into politics or law after being the role model for the hearing impaired that he never had.
“Getting the chance to play in the Super Bowl is basically saying when people are hard of hearing now, they can do it too,” Coleman said.
“I get to be a role model, help out kids. I’m able to show them they are not the only ones with this problem. Everything they are going through, I’ve been through.”
Coleman, 23, has become an exceptional lip reader to help him understand play calls in huddles or when quarterback Russell Wilson changes the play at the line and turns to tell Coleman before the rusher watches the center snap to know the play has started.
“People like me are why coaches cover their mouths when they call plays,” he said.
Coleman makes sure he has new batteries in his hearing aid before every game, a move that landed him an battery endorsement deal and a Super Bowl commercial.
“He’s an extraordinary person,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He has demonstrated to others that have that issue how far you can take it and what you can do and how there are no boundaries. He’s helping a lot of people by what he has accomplished.”
Seahawks running back coach Sherman Smith says Coleman is versatile and smart.
“He’s a great person, very humble,” Smith said. “It made him tougher being told all the time what he couldn’t do. He’s not going to let that be a reason for failure.”
Riley Kovalcik, a hearing-impaired nine-year-old, wrote Coleman a letter that her father put on Twitter saying, “Dear my inspiration Derrick Coleman. I know how you feel. I also have hearing aids. Just try your best. I have faith in you.”
Coleman tweeted back: “I want you to know that I always try my best in everything I do and have faith in you.”
“That just touched my heart a little bit. It made me feel warm,” Coleman said.
“And I was looking on Twitter and I saw a lady from Australia and I said, ‘How did it get way over there?’ The fact it went all over is a blessing. I’m doing something right. I’m helping.” – Rappler.com