Legally deaf Seahawk happy to be a role model

Seattles Derrick Coleman is the first legally deaf player in the NFL. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Seattles Derrick Coleman is the first legally deaf player in the NFL. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Posted: February 01, 2014

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - There might be a time in the Super Bowl when the Seattle Seahawks' Derrick Coleman cannot hear quarterback Russell Wilson make a call at the line of scrimmage. So the fullback will get Wilson's attention and read his lips.

Coleman is legally deaf. He wears hearing aids. He said that if a normal-hearing person is an eight, nine, or 10 on a scale of zero to 10, he would qualify as a two without the hearing aids and a six, seven, or eight with the hearing aids - "depending on the day."

He's believed to be the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. The story has generated attention in recent weeks, and especially this week with the Seahawks taking center stage. Coleman answers every question, and hopes that he will be known for his disability throughout his career.

"I want people to know my story," Coleman said Thursday. "I want people who are hard of hearing in that community out there to hear, 'I play football.' If I play football, you could do anything."

Playing a contact sport has not been a problem. He wears a skullcap to keep the sweat out of his ears. He brings a backup pair to games.

One of Coleman's friends called him "the Rosa Parks of football." He didn't like the term, but he understood the meaning. He has received letters and messages from fans who heard his story. He shares anecdotes passed along by people with disabilities who have drawn inspiration.

Duracell made a commercial that went viral and helped raise awareness of Coleman's plight. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll showed it in a meeting leading up to the NFC championship game.

Carroll said Coleman's hearing impairment has not caused any problems for the team. There are times in a loud stadium when Coleman might remind coaches to look at him when they speak, but he has fit into the Seahawks and has become a key player.

"Everybody has problems. Nobody is perfect," Coleman said. "I wear a hearing aid; some people have glasses, some people have depression. Everybody has something. But as long as you don't let that get in the way of what you want to do, you can do anything you want to do."

The Super Bowl has provided him with a forum to tell his story. When he plays on Sunday, it will be with an international audience.

"The hardest thing about being in the deaf community is getting over wall one," Coleman said. "Everything I do is going to affect them in terms of perception. Everything they do is going to affect me. What I'm doing now . . . that's basically saying . . . you can do it, too."

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