Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman is an inspiration to both deaf and hearing individuals. An incredibly moving depiction of Derrick’s personal struggle with profound hearing loss is the subject of a recent Duracell advertisement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2HD57z4F8E). This ad has been viewed more than 19 million times on YouTube and Derrick has become an Internet sensation for being the first deaf NFL player to play in the Super Bowl. Twenty-three year old Coleman is a tireless advocate for children with hearing loss, sharing his stories of having to tape his hearing aids to his head inside of his helmet playing football as a child.

Riley Kovalcik, a 9-year-old girl with hearing loss from New Jersey, wrote Coleman to tell him, “Just try your best. I have faif in you,” Coleman replied with a handwritten letter of his own, telling her he had faith in her as well. “Even though we wear hearing aids, we can still accomplish our goals and dreams,” wrote Coleman, who later surprised Riley and her twin sister Erin with Super Bowl tickets (https://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/01/derrick-coleman-fans-meet-super-bowl/).

Leading up to the big game, #40 also surprised deaf 10-year-old fan Jack Coleman with an in-person appearance, a jersey and a signed football at a sporting goods store (https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/exclusive-derrick-coleman-surprises-hearing-impaired-boy-jersey-article-1.1598556), and also handed out hearing aids recently at Yankee Stadium. Coleman has raised money to help design football helmets that can accomodate cochlear implants as well.

When the Seahawks coasted to victory on SuperBowl Sunday night, thousands of American households who have never followed football, much less rooted for the Seahawks, had reason to celebrate.  Coleman became deaf when he was three years old, yet continued on to a successful career in NFL football in spite of significant challenges. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in December 2012, scored his first NFL touchdown in December 2013, and proudly represented his team in the 2014 Superbowl as the first deaf offensive player in the history of the NFL. It’s one thing for parents and educators to tell special needs children that they can achieve the highest of heights. It’s another to show them an example of someone who actually did. While Derrick Coleman’s athletic accomplishments are certainly admirable, the true nobility of his character is made evident through his charitable actions and outreach to those who live with hearing loss.

Photo: Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman speaks to the media during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)