Seattle Seahawk running back Derrick Coleman is the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player. He rushed for 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns during his college career at UCLA, and he’s educated coaches at all levels of his career about his ability to communicate with his team.
Coleman was not drafted immediately after college, but the Minnesota Vikings signed him as a free agent in 2012. He was waived in training camp, and the Seahawks signed him as a free agent in December of that year.
A video the NFL produced about Coleman before last year’s Super Bowl does a great job showing how he uses resourcefulness to solve problems related to his deafness. It opens with a shot of his mother tearing up her pantyhose: she and Derrick figured out that wrapping it around his hearing aids cuts the feedback he’d been getting under the football helmet.
The video goes on to demonstrate how Coleman educated his teammates about his disability. He can lip-read, so he taught Russell Wilson to always turn around and look directly his way when giving audibles. The quarterback has to take his mouth guard out from time to time, too, so Coleman can see his lips. The filmmakers interviewed the Seahawks coach in the video, and he recognizes the extra effort that Derrick Coleman always puts in. “His work ethic is outstanding,” the coach says. “We just had to put him on the field to see if he could put it all together.” Obviously, he could. Put it all together, I mean. So well, in fact, that he helped the Seahawks make it to this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Coleman won’t be playing in the game this Sunday, unfortunately – he was put on the injured reserve list after cracking a bone in his foot during warm-ups. I know he’ll be rooting for the Seahawks from the sidelines this Sunday, though, and you know what? So will I.
Note: This post originally appeared this past Wednesday, January 28, 2015 on the Easter Seals blog.