Seattle Seahawk fullback, Derrick Coleman, is the first legally deaf offensive player in NFL history. To be effective on the field he has to read lips, advocate for his needs continually, and use powerful hearing aids — which he keeps in place and protected with a double layer of skullcaps. Where did Coleman learn to believe in himself enough, that he would one day make it to the The Big Game with his team? Two words: “Mom” and “Dad.”
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Hi, my name is Derrick Coleman. I’m a fullback, slash running back for the Seattle Seahawks. And I’m also hearing-impaired.
Ever since I was 4 years old, I’ve been wearing hearing aids. If you wasn’t in my immediate family, I didn’t really talk to you.
My parents used to take me everywhere with them and kind of force me into those situations. Basically made me who I am today, made me a very talkative person. [Laughs]
You talk to anybody who has hearing difficulty, they will tell you, we all have problems. We’ve been bullied, we’ve been made fun of.
And my parents come in, my mom specifically. She said, “Don’t really associate yourself with people who don’t want to help you.”
My Dad taught me a lot growing up. Basically told me, “Don’t squander any opportunities.” “You only have so many in this life,” and “Don’t get ready, be ready.”
He basically said that to me day in, day out.
As much as I loved sports, there was times that I didn’t really want to do it,
but they knew I liked sports so much, so they really pushed me. They didn’t let me stop.
Some people can’t play sports because they just don’t have it, but I was able to. That was an opportunity for me.
Somebody say I can’t do something that’s definitely achievable, I probably just gotta work on it, I’m going to try. And if I really can’t do it, then at least I know I tried.
One of my jobs is to block for Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. We really focus on the whole team, the whole offense. Knowing when the quarterback is gonna audible. You know, he either tells you in the huddle, or we know,
“OK, we’re going to run this play, but if the defense lines up like that, we’re going to switch. If he just changes to something completely different, that’s not really part of the plan, they know, regardless of where we are, either at home where it’s quiet, or if it’s away where it’s loud, all he gotta do is turn around and just look at me. I’m not a shy person. And, I’ll go up there and grab him like, “What?” and then go back.
Sometimes it’s a benefit for me because I can read lips. I’ll be able to understand what the quarterback is saying before everyone else do.
That’s what I like about football. It’s a team thing. All 11 guys have to do the right thing in order for the play to work.
This is a rare opportunity. You know, there’s only 53 guys on 32 teams that are able to play.
Making my first touchdown in the NFL was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far. That was the first game back from an injury, and it was on Monday night.
That’s one of the things that my Dad always talked about is, that’s an opportunity.
I saw he threw the ball. And when I looked, Kellen Davis, all I saw was the ball hit him and it came up.
I saw a ball. In the air. I mean, so I was just like, “I’m going to get the ball.” So I went and grabbed it, and I just… it was all kind of a blur to me because I don’t know exactly what happened, because it happened so fast.
So I just caught the ball and went in. And then, if you really look closely, I’m just sitting there. Because it took me a second to realize what just happened. And then after that, they said, “Touchdown” and I’m like “OK! I can live with that.”
There’s a group of people in this world, when you tell them they can’t do something, they’re going to go out there and do it.
You told Russell he can’t be an NFL quarterback because he was too short, he went out and did it.
You told me that I can’t really play football because of my hearing loss, I went out there and did it.
That’s the end of the story, right there.