Some of the loudest cheers on Sunday will be reserved for a man who won’t hear them. Some of those cheering the most won’t experience the roars of the Meadowlands as well as you and I would. The impact the starting fullback for the Seattle Seahawks is having on many people across the nation, though, is coming through loud and clear.
Derrick Coleman is not your typical NFL star. Coleman is the only hearing-impaired player in the league, and the first offensive NFL player who is legally deaf. Because of his remarkable story, people are inspired by Coleman, who’s been deaf since the age of three, and his stats or on field contributions have very little to do with it.
Others who are deaf or hearing impaired are looking to Coleman as an example of beating the odds and wrecking stereotypes. He is on top of his profession, one win away from a world championship, and he’s done it all without the luxury of full sound that we take for granted.
Two little girls are particularly fond of Coleman. Riley Kovalcik composed an adorable hand written letter to Coleman, letting her football hero know about the similarities they share. Riley told Coleman that she and her identical twin sister also wear hearing aids. She encouraged Coleman to try his best because “I know how you feel.”
Riley’s father tweeted a picture of the letter and amazingly, Coleman wrote back. He thanked Riley for the letter and let her know that he has faith in her and her sister Erin.
The kids were thrilled, but it didn’t end there. The Kovalcik girls appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to talk about their new pen pal. Then the big surprise. Coleman walked out to meet the girls and invite them and their entire family to the Super Bowl.
The moving story is making in impact. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin even shared a link of Coleman’s meeting with Riley and Erin on her Facebook page. Palin simply wrote “I can not wait ’til Sunday!!!” I can think of a fullback and two beautiful children who feel the same way.
Like former MLB player Curtis Pride and ex-NHLer Jim Kyte did before, Derrick Coleman is proving to everyone that there is a place for the hearing impaired on the grandest of stages. He’s already a champion regardless of Sunday’s outcome. Two of his biggest fans can attest to that.