Seahawks’ Coleman an inspiration
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Derrick Coleman doesn't do sign language anymore.
But the legally deaf Seattle Seahawks fullback will study the signer spelling out the words to the national anthem while soprano Renee Fleming sings them before Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Coleman and the people who really know him will share the gutwrenching emotion and teary travails that brought him to where he is today, a vocal spokesman for hearingimpaired Americans.
The commercial Coleman did for Duracell, which makes batteries for the hearing aids he uses to live life on life's terms is so powerful it's difficult to watch without choking up.
“The fact that they do it at every big event you have, basically when people see that there's more awareness,” Coleman said Wednesday. “And that's really what that commercial was about was spreading the awareness that hearing is a problem in the United States and the world. And we've just got to educate everybody about it to help us so that we can help you, too. Because there's some things you guys can learn from us, too.”
“… They told me it couldn't be done. That I was a lost cause … ”
Duracell commercial featuring Derrick Coleman.
Coleman has eight receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown this season. The undrafted product out of UCLA has two rushes for three yards and immense respect from teammates, includ- ing veteran fullback Michael Robinson.
“I love D.C. I tell him all the time,” Robinson said. “I have the utmost respect for what he does and how he plays this game. I couldn't imagine being impaired in some way, whether it's hearing or sight or whatever, and he does a great job. It's been awesome working with him and he is the future of the fullback position here. He understands that I know that so I just try to give him as much knowledge and help him out as much as possible.”
Coleman lost his hearing 20 years ago, at age 3, due to a genetic condition. His mother, May Hamlin, decided he wouldn't lose himself.
When Coleman got the itch to play football, Hamlin fastened hearing aids inside his helmet with pantyhose. Coaches, fearing for his well-being in some cases and in others not wanting to bother, blocked him. They couldn't keep this strongwilled player down. And now it's a national story.
“We wanted to inspire others,” Coleman said of the pact he formed with Duracell. “We wanted to let them know whatever accomplishments you want to achieve regardless of whatever obstacles you want to overcome you can always do it. Just trust the power within and do what you want to do your best. And that's basically what I'm doing.”
In the commercial Coleman played himself. It spells out hope, not just for the hearing impaired but others suffering on other levels.
To communicate in football Coleman uses water-resistant hearing aids and reads the lips of the quarterback. Coleman stays next to the quarterback to pick up the sound or stations himself directly across from him in the huddle to read lips.
Yes, there are mistakes. Coleman knows how to learn from them.
“I already have to be more aware of my surroundings,” he said. “I always have to put in extra effort in whatever I do.”
Coleman has gone above and beyond the average man to set the bar high. The correspondence he receives from the hearing impaired is humbling.
“Everybody has problems,” Coleman said. “Nobody is perfect. I wear hearing aids, some people have glasses, some people have depression. Everybody has got something. As long as you don't let that get in the way you can do what you want to do.”
While classmates studied Spanish, Coleman tried sign language. He gave it up because, well, there weren't enough classmates to use it.
“It's kind of hard when you don't really have anybody to sign with to keep it,” Coleman said. “I know like the really basic stuff. I interact with everybody so well. If you see me on the street walking you would never know. Unless you actually see my hearing aids you would never know that you were hearing impaired.”
When you see Derrick Coleman play Sunday night you may not be able to tell the difference between him and Michael Robinson.
“… But I've been deaf since I was 3. So I didn't listen … ”
Coleman in Duracell commercial.