Phoenix, Arizona (KPHO/KTVK) — Football fans are some of the loudest in the country, across any sport. But imagine lining up on the field and not being able to hear the crowd very well. That is Derrick Coleman’s reality.
This season, the Arizona Cardinals picked up the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. He is a fullback.
Coleman was the subject of a moving Super Bowl commercial that highlights his life story and the struggles he overcame to get to the NFL. He says he lost his hearing when he was three years old and has worn hearing aids every since.
He teamed up with Good Morning Arizona’s Gina Maravilla, who has a daughter with hearing loss, to arrange a meeting with some three dozen other deaf children in the Phoenix area. They ranged in age from pre-school to college-aged.
Coleman allowed them to ask him any question they wanted. There were big cheers after a girl asked about his favorite food. He told them it was mac n’ cheese!
The kids also asked football questions.
He told them, because he can read lips, he has a special system with his quarterbacks. If they call an audible, his QBs know to turn around to make sure Coleman can see their lips. That is how they communicate a change in plays.
When asked what it was like to win a Super Bowl (with the Seattle Seahawks), Coleman explained, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, the journey of getting to that Super Bowl knowing all the obstacles I had to overcome. That’s where all my satisfaction was.”
The kids also asked about his experiences being deaf. Gina’s daughter, Kennedy, wanted to know if Coleman was bullied because of his ears.
Coleman told her, “I was teased a lot. Yes, they hurt. I’ve been called ‘four-ears.’ I’ve been called all different types of things. ‘You can’t hear. You can’t play with us,” recalls Coleman. However, he went on to tell Kennedy, “You don’t need to be talking to them. You don’t need to be around people who don’t appreciate you for being you.”
One boy asked Coleman what his favorite celebration touchdown dance looked like. Coleman said, when he is playing in a stadium that is not his home stadium, he turns to the crowd and cups his ear, saying, “WHAT??”
Coleman then explained that he then walks away. “Because at the end of the day the opposing team, I view as all the bullies I grew up with. Whenever they started talking, bullying, being mean to me, I just look at them like ‘What? I didn’t hear you.’ And I walk away. I don’t need to hear that. I don’t need to hear that negativity.”
Coleman told the kids he doesn’t mind having hearing loss. It makes him who he is today.
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