Deafness is a performance enhancer for Seahawks’ inspirational player
January 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman’s ability to block out all the noise that will engulf Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at raucous CenturyLink Field has turned a perceived impairment into what he calls “a blessing.’’
Profoundly deaf since the age of three, Coleman didn’t pay attention to the naysayers who told him he would never realize his NFL dream. And Sunday, of all places he could have ended up, he’ll be impervious to a place known for its booming noise.
“It definitely seems ironic,’’ Coleman said. “I just consider it a blessing. I’m glad I’m on this side. But even if I wasn’t and I was somewhere else and I came here, all that noise would not be a factor to me
Without his hearing aid, his hearing would be a “one.’’
So when he runs out of the CenturyLink tunnel Sunday, the core special teams player who has inspired his coaches and teammates by overcoming his hearing impairment won’t be rattled by the fury of the Seahawks’ trademark “12th man’’ which set a Guinness Book record this season for the league’s loudest crowd.
Coleman gets the play call in the huddle from quarterback Russell Wilson, who doesn’t wear his mouthpiece.
“He knows just to look at me,’’ Coleman said. “Everybody knows I lip read. They know when they talk to me, you have to look me in my eye. So all I do is look at him, read his lips and I’m good to go.’’
Coleman said the only issue he’s had of late was in Seattle’s 23-15 division-round win against the New Orleans Saints. Halfway through the second quarter, his hearing aid batteries started beeping warning that it was about to cut off. He had an extra pair ready, which the Seahawks equipment man brought to him.
“I always make sure I have a backup plan,’’ Coleman said.
Coleman’s hearing impairment inspired a commercial for Duracell batteries that has drawn more than 5 million hits on YouTube with the powerful message, “I was picked on and I was picked last a lot,’’ Coleman said.“And it’s funny. Because I was always athletic. I was a fast kid, but hearing aids were always a factor especially when I was a young kid.
“They wanted to inspire children and dother people that whatever objects you have, regardless of any age, you can still achieve your dream.’’
What has been the reaction to his commercial?
“Everybody really liked it,’’ Coleman said. “They said, ‘Oh, my wife watched it. She was tearing, choking up, it almost made me cry.’
“I’m glad that it really got to everybody. And everybody truly now sees not only what I overcame, but they got the message out of it: That they can do whatever they want to do. ‘Don’t give up.’’
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman played against Coleman in college at Stanford.
“His commercial is unbelievable,’’ Sherman told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s one of the best commercials I ever saw. It gives you goose bumps. He’s an outstanding person and player.
The 6-foot, 233 fullback with 1,840 yards and 19 career touchdowns at UCLA was initially signed by the Minnesota Vikings, but was released in training camp.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll saw something special in Coleman.
“He does his job impeccably well in all areas and everything that we ask of him,’’ Carroll said. “He’s a terrific-effort guy; he’s tough. He’s fast. He’s the third running back on game day when the roster sets up that way.
“So he’s been a fantastic part of the team and it’s been a really cool story. Not because he has issues. Because he’s made this team and he’s made a spot for himself and he’s claimed it.’’
Coleman laughed when asked if he ever used his lip reading skills to his advantage. Once during his freshman year at Troy High School, he tipped his head coach to what the opposing offense would run.
“It was more having fun, back in freshman year in high school,’’ he said. “Coach said, ‘What are they about to run?’
I said, ‘Outside sweep.’
“And then they changed the whole defense to stop them. Coaches use those play cards covering their mouths because of people like me.’’