Derrick Coleman was repeatedly told he could never make it in football – but that didn’t deter him becoming a professional athlete.
Instead, the legally deaf fullback – who plays for the Seattle Seahawks and is the first legally deaf offensive player in the history of the NFL – will step onto the Super Bowl turf for the biggest game of his career on Feb. 2.
“Being deaf, being hard of hearing is who I am, so I’m not going to let someone else come in here and say ‘Oh, you re deaf,’ ” he told ABC News. “That s who I am. It made me who I am today.”
Millions learned about Coleman, 23, earlier this month when he starred in an inspirational Duracell commercial that dramatically outlined his life story.
Coleman narrates the 60-second spot, in which he describes being called a “lost cause” as a child who was picked on and frequently picked last. He said coaches encouraged him to quit, but he never gave up on his dreams. The ad has been viewed more than 8.3 million times on YouTube, and he recently told the Seattle Times the information presented in it is “all true.”
The Los Angeles native lost most of his hearing at age 3 due to a genetic condition. He credits his mother, May Hamlin, with helping him pursue his gridiron dreams: Growing up, she would tape hearing aids to the inside of his helmet using Hanes pantyhose, which helped cut down on feedback, reports ABC.
He also learned to read lips to help understand play calls, and is vigilant about not moving until the ball moves. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has also been spotted turning toward him and mouthing any last-minute play changes.
His disability has been managed so effectively head coach Pete Carroll told the Seattle Times it’s “really not even something that we deal with.”
For Coleman, that can only sound like vindication after a hard-fought battle.
“You can always make something work if you really put your mind to it,” Coleman told ABC. “You can definitely achieve it and that’s why when people say I can’t do something, I know that I probably can.”