NFL’s First Deaf Offensive Player Shares His Message

By  //  January 31, 2014

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CHAMPION AND INSPIRATION FOR THE DEAF MAY BE THE MOST COMPELLING SUPER BOWL STORY OF THE YEAR

ABOVE VIDEO: Duracell batteries advertisement featuring Derrick Coleman, running back for the Seattle Seahawks. Although he’s deaf, he never lets adversity stand in his way on his road to the NFL. The inspirational video has garnered over 13 million viewers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos and National Football Conference (NFC) champion Seattle Seahawks to decide the National Football League (NFL) championship for the 2013 season is shaping up to be unique among Super Bowls with a plethora of “firsts.”

This year’s Super Bowl venue selection was very controversial. Met Life Stadium in New Jersey will be the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a cold weather environment, and many are concerned that the weather may adversely affect the teams’ performances.

This year's Super Bowl venue selection was very controversial. Met Life Stadium in New Jersey will be the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a cold weather environment, and many are concerned that the weather may adversely affect the teams' performance

This year’s Super Bowl venue selection was very controversial. Met Life Stadium in New Jersey will be the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a cold weather environment, and many are concerned that the weather may adversely affect the teams’ performance

Sunday’s contest will also be the first in which two U.S. states, New York and New Jersey share hosting duties, and the first to be played outdoors on artificial turf since Super Bowl X at the Miami Orange Bowl.  It is also the first time since Super Bowl XLIV, and just the second time in the past twenty seasons, that the first seeds from each conference will meet to decide the championship. 

Adding even more drama and, hopefully, excitement, to the contest is the fact that the game will feature the league’s top offense led by All-Everything and shoe-in future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning vs. Seattle’s number 1 defense and all of the hype associated with Pro-Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman’s adrenaline-charged on-air comments after the NFC championship game.

A much lesser known “first,” one that doesn’t necessarily generate the hoopla that is inherent to the ostentatious gridiron battle, but, from my perspective is no less compelling, is the story of Seattle Sea Hawk running back, Derrick Coleman.

Deaf since the age of three, Coleman was a standout running back at Troy High School in Fullerton, California, played college football at the University of California Los Angeles, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Vikings in 2012 and subsequently signed with the Sea Hawks in December of 2012.

Seattle Sea Hawk running back, Derrick Coleman, in action against the New Orleans Saints.

Seattle Sea Hawk running back, Derrick Coleman, in action against the New Orleans Saints.

As the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player, and soon the Super Bowl’s first legally deaf offensive player, Coleman has inspired many during his brief NFL career.

He emerged into the public eye in January with a great Duracell commercial that featured his journey to the NFL and garnered over 13 million YouTube viewers.

The commercial inspired twin sisters Riley and Erin Kovalcik, who, like Coleman, wear hearing aids, to write him a letter of support.  The media has picked up the story, and the excerpted article from the Los Angles Daily News reports on the special connection between the twins and Coleman and, how, after exchanging letters, Coleman and Duracell decided to invite the Kovalcik family to attend the Super Bowl game in person on Sunday.

When he arrived in The Big Apple and The Garden State this week with his Seahawks for the game, he did so as an inspiration not only to the deaf community around the world but also to anyone challenged with a handicap, not to mention a bit of a celebrity.

—Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

ABOVE VIDEO: Derrick Coleman makes fans dreams come true. (Good Morning America video)

LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS — Real, as the phrase goes, knows real.

So when twin sisters Riley and Erin Kovalcik’s heart-felt letter showed up on Derrick Coleman’s Twitter feed two weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks running back instantly was drawn to its genuineness.

Coleman, the former UCLA standout, is the first legally deaf player in the NFL. Riley and Erin are 9-year-old identical twins from New Jersey. Inspired by watching a Duracell commercial in which Coleman recalls getting picked on because he was deaf, the sisters wrote him a letter.

Riley wrote: “I know how you feel. I also have hearing aids. Just try your best. I have faith in you.”

Their father tweeted it to Coleman soon after the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game to advance to the Super Bowl.

Derrick Coleman and twins

Twin sisters Riley and Erin Kovalcik and their family show off their tickets for Sunday’s Super Bowl. Seattle Seahawks’ running back Derrick Coleman invited the Kovalciks to the game after the twins, who like Coleman are deaf and wear hearing aids, sent him a letter of support.

The sincerity immediately struck him.

“I think the biggest thing was that it was one of those things where she’s not asking for anything, not an autograph or something,” Coleman said. “She’s just saying, ‘I have faith in you. You’re my inspiration, and I hope you do well in everything you do.’  That kind of just touched my heart a little bit. It made me feel warm.”

He later tweeted the sisters back. “Even though we wear hearing aids, we can still accomplish our goals & dreams!” it read.

Coleman, whose deafness was diagnosed when he was 3, expounded on his re-tweet this week in New York.

“I just thought I would take five or 10 minutes before practice and reply to her,” Coleman said. “Every now and then that makes a big difference and that’s kind of what I wanted to do. I’m pretty sure that letter probably helped them take the next step or whatever they have to do.”

The exchange between the girls and their football hero went viral.

CLICK HERE to read the complete story on (Los Angeles) DailyNews.com.


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