22 Thoughts About That Deaf Fullback: Derrick Coleman

Posted by: Staff Writer on Jan. 28, 2014

1.  His is a story that melts the hearts of even diehard Broncos fans. We know you Peyton-lovers are out there, dissolving into "aaawws" at Coleman's handwritten letter to 9-year-old Riley Kovalcik.

2.  But make no mistake about it, this isn’t just an underdog story like Notre Dame‘s “Rudy". Coleman's fullback stats back him up: Two carries, eight receptions, and 62 total rushing yards. His tip-drill circus touchdown against the Saints on December 2? Not bad for someone who, as revealed in a press conference, had to deal with his hearing aid battery fizzing out during the game.

3.  But! We prefer this wording: “Not bad for someone with kryptonite hearing either. Heck, I’d rather be able to do that, than simply have ‘normal’ hearing.”

4.  Coleman’s not just selling Duracell batteries - the widely received commercial which will also air during the Super Bowl - and web traffic. He’s selling hope, childhood dreams, and accessibility. That’s why he’s on the same Super Bowl commercial playing field as celebrity heavyweights like Arnold Schwarzenegger (Bud Light), and the reunited cast of “Full House” (Dannon Oikos).

5.  Would you ever hang up on a Seahawks player? Sure, the Seahawks team has renowned Seahawks chef Mac McNabb cooking up a gourmet storm. But if you’re a business owner, you never know if it’s a Seahawks fullback attempting to order takeout or pizza via a Relay call. Lesson (to paraphrase Bill Gates): Be nice to everyone. You never know if you’ll end up rooting for him on the way to a Lombardi Trophy.

6.  Even for those who don't "get" football’s technicalities, nor “get“ Deaf Culture, it‘s impossible not be fascinated by a Coleman-esque childhood. How many football players have moms who make skull caps out of pantyhose? How many lightning-quick boys are "picked on, and picked last" for sports teams?

7.  We don’t know these details just because the media fished it out of him. We also know because we’ve been there: Speech reading until our eyes bulge, brushing off bullies, and the cold dread when our hearing battery decides to die in the middle of an important moment.

8.  Like a job interview. Or a first date. Or an insane tip-drill touchdown that we can only make in our dreams.

9.  If the 12th Man's roar for the Seahawks is deafening, our collective "deaf applause" to #40 is even more intense. Remember Deaf NFL player Bonnie Sloan, who played four games for the 1973 Arizona Cardinals? That was a good three decades before Facebook and tweets made the world so hyper-aware of the slogan, “Deaf can do anything but hear“.

10.  Fun fact: In five days, the Seahawks are up against the Denver Broncos, a franchise with history’s other deaf NFL player: Defensive lineman Kenny Walker ('91 and '92). While he was at the University of Nebraska, crowds would honor him by signing “applause”.

11.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone did that at the Super Bowl XLVIII, too? Same for showing our appreciation of deaf actress Amber Zion’s upcoming ASL performance of the National Anthem.

12.  There are an estimated +35 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans today. In a wide-ranging tribe of those that are mainstreamed, or late-deafened, or exclusively use sign language, or wear cochlear implants, or began learning how to sign their ABCs later in life, Derrick Coleman’s journey to the MetLife Stadium embodies the daily struggles we’ve all faced.

13.  Headlines like "The sound of silence in the NFL"aren’t accurate, given the advances in technology (like hearing aids and Duracell batteries). But despite being equipped with digital hearing aids, Coleman wakes up in silence. Despite waking up in silence, he did not learn how to sign until his senior year of college.

14.  The ironies go on and on, illuminating an important point: No deaf or hard of hearing person is alike. There many nuances along the spectrum of hearing loss are infinite.

15.  Until we’ve seen an audiogram, let’s respect Coleman’s cultural self-identification. “Legally deaf” isn’t a term he coined for himself, nor “Deaf with capital D.”

16.  Remember that Keanu Reeves movie, The Replacements? The storyline includes a Deaf tight end who, in the coach’s words, “would’ve gone in the first round 5 years ago if he hadn’t been born deaf.” Instead of sign language, made-up pantomime gibberish is used to call out plays like “Rack Nine.” And while the Deaf player relies on ASL, no provisions like interpreters were made for him.

17.  (We’re so, so grateful that the real-life NFL doesn't work that way and if needed, accommodations would be made).

18.  "You only get so many opportunities in a lifetime,” Coleman said in a press conference. “This is one I definitely didn't want to squander or pass up." We get it, completely.

19.  When NFL's "Derrick Coleman: The sound of silence" video came out without captions, it sparked a fury among deaf comment-ers. Even if the NFL/NBC had not heeded nearly 10,000 petition signatures demanding that then-Miss Deaf America be shown in the Super Bowl Jumbotron broadcast of 2012, there was no ignoring the wrath of the Community this time.

20.  Will Derrick Coleman be the first deaf NFL player to be on a winning Super Bowl team? Only time will tell. But Vegas odds remain stacked against deaf and hard of hearing individuals rising to the top in all kinds of professions, and that’s why we need him to remind us on his Twitter feed: #NOEXCUSES.

21.  Before he was #40, he was #49 (Minnesota Vikings). Before he was #49, he was #33 (UCLA Bruins). Waaaay before that, he was a #deaf boy just trying his darnest to get naysayers to let him play sport he loved.

22.  In our hearts, that makes Derrick Coleman #1. 



Comment Policy

We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.


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