Regardless of who you are rooting for when it comes to the Super Bowl, there is no denying the empowering story of Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks’ fullback. Earlier this month, Duracell released a commercial featuring Derrick Coleman that showcased how he remained steadfast in his ambition to play professional football, and his refusal to be defined by his different ability:
The commercial has captured the attention of many across the nation, especially those within the hearing-impaired community. At the age of three, Coleman was diagnosed with an incurable hearing impairment that caused him to wear a hearing aid. Coleman endured the negativity of people telling him to forgo his dreams because of his hearing impairment. Instead of allowing such statements and attitudes to influence his life’s path, he decided to work harder to achieve his goals.
Coleman had faced setbacks on his journey to becoming a professional athlete. His name was not called during the 2012 NFL Draft.Though he was eventually signed by the Minnesota Vikings, he was cut right before the start of the season. Most people would have given up on their dream after experiencing such crushing defeats, but not Coleman.
After being cut from the Vikings, he decided to go back home, stay in shape, and remain connected to the sport he loved by working at Troy High School as the running back coach. His determination and talent led to him being signed by the Seattle Seahawks in December 2012 and becoming the first legally deaf offensive player in NFL history.
Joining the NFL was his great career aspiration, but the focus Coleman has now is to inspire children with disabilities to achieve their own dreams. In an interview with Sports News, Coleman stated that he “wanted to inspire people, especially children, to trust the power within and achieve their goals.” Coleman’s youngest fans are indeed watching his every move, and are encouraging him to continue to break glass ceilings.
Riley Kovalcik wrote a letter to Coleman, and shared that she and her twin sister had something in common with the NFL star – they, too, wear hearing aids. In the letter, Riley remarked at how she understood what Coleman goes through, she encouraged him to do his best, and stated that she had faith in him. The letter was shared on Twitter by Riley’s father, Jake Kovalcik, and has since gone viral on social media.
Being moved by the letter, Derrick Coleman wrote a response to the girls, and tweeted his letter. Coleman thanked the girls for showing their support to him and the Seahawks, and stated that they are more than capable of achieving their hopes and desires, regardless of their hearing ability.
As a person who has moderate hearing loss due to my disability, and wears two hearing aids, seeing Coleman’s story has had a profound impact on myself, like countless others. Coleman’s story may be considered “inspiring,” but in actuality, he made the conscious decision to not allow his seemingly “limitation” to control his destiny. Coleman represents the millions of people with different abilities in this country who are shattering glass ceilings and making a name for themselves in their respective fields.
We need more of these stories to be shared so that children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities will know that the only person who can truly hinder their progress is themselves. Representation of people with disabilities in the media, sports, etc. is needed, and I am proud that Coleman is representing the millions like Riley and myself through his sportsmanship and by sharing his life story.
Vilissa Thompson, LMSW is the Disability and Advocacy Staff Writer for Social Work Helper, and she is also the Founder of Ramp Your Voice! In addition to being a Disability Rights Consultant and Advocate, Vilissa seeks to propel the faces and voices of people of color with disabilities both within the disability community and in the general public. Vilissa can be contacted via email at Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com, or by visiting the Ramp Your Voice! website at http://www.rampyourvoice.com/.