Site translation by Certified Deaf Interpreter Steven Stubbs.
The Seattle Seahawks recently played the game of their lives and are headed to the Super Bowl! They are known for a few things; their incredible first Superbowl win in 2014, the loud and Guinness World Record setting 12th man, and fullback player Derrick Coleman. During the 2013 NFL season, Coleman was drafted to the Seattle Seahawks and made NFL history as the first deaf person drafted to the offensive line as a fullback.
Coleman quickly became a household name amongst the Deaf community and in January 2014, the rest of the country quickly discovered him. Duracell aired a commercial leading up to the Superbowl that featured Coleman’s journey to the NFL arena and all the obstacles he has overcome along the way.
Derrick’s Hearing Loss
Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1990, doctors confirmed that Coleman’s left ear was profoundly Deaf and soon most of the hearing in his right ear faded. Despite the playground taunts, bulky hearing aids, and regularly being called, “four ears,” Coleman persevered and found his place on the football field.
Playing on the offensive line requires communication so Coleman quickly developed strategies that ensured he could carry out the next play. His mother, May Evans, told Derrick early on, ‘If you can’t hear what your quarterback is saying, you need to push your way through to the front and you need to stand right there by them. And if you can’t hear them, you grab them and you tell them to repeat themselves.” That is exactly what Derrick has done ever since he joined the high school football squad; pushing to the front, grabbing the face mask of the quarterback and making sure he knows exactly what is expected of him.
Derrick Persevers Over Deafness
After high school Coleman was recruited by UCLA, however there was nothing truly memorable about his time playing for the Bruins. When draft season came around, Coleman was looked over and there was the suspicion that his hearing loss was an underlying fear of the prospective coaching staff. The Vikings picked him up for their practice squad but quickly let him go until the Seahawks drafted him in 2013. People often say that Coleman has an ability to focus and ‘listen’ in a way that his hearing teammates fail to do. His concentration and focus has to be on point each game at all times to compensate for not being able to hear the play calls. He knows that if he is going to play in the NFL, he has to be able to keep up without any excuses. As the Deaf community says, Deaf people can do anything but hear.
During his first season with the Seahawks, Coleman celebrated his first NFL career touchdown in December after a remarkable pass, ricochet and recovery. A month later, Duracell aired their powerful ad campaign about “Trusting the Power Within” reaching over 12 million people.
Shortly after the ad aired, nine year old twin girls, who also wear hearing aids, wrote to Coleman saying that he taught them anything can be done with a hearing loss. Coleman responded and soon their exchange went viral. Shortly after, with the help of Duracell, the girls and their family were on their way to the Superbowl to cheer on their biggest inspiration.
Coleman’s career is just getting started and the Seahawks are heading to their second Super Bowl. In two short years, Coleman has shown that perseverance, determination, and refusing to be defined by a disability can make anything possible.