Seahawk uses disability to his advantage
SEATTLE -- The ear-splitting screams of Seahawk fans don't faze fullback Derrick Coleman, not even when they crushed the crowd noise record the night Coleman scored a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints.
"I know it's loud sometimes because people are wearing earplugs," Coleman said.
Number 40 is the NFL's first legally deaf offensive player. He started losing his hearing as a toddler and was wearing hearing aids in both ears by age four.
"Doctors still don't know why I lost it. It just up and left," Coleman said.
The 23-year old never learned sign language, but perfected lip reading. That gave one coach an advantage over opponents.
"I've only done that once. My freshman year my coach just found out I could read lips and was like, 'What's that other team saying?' " Coleman said.
He saw a sweep coming, and he was right. For the record, he says Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hasn't asked him to read the lips of the other team's coaches.
In the huddle, Coleman relies on eye contact with the quarterback.
"If it's loud and my hearing aids are almost worthless, I just read his lips. He tells me what the play is and we go," he said of Russell Wilson. "He knows like every quarterback I ever work with, when he sees me in the huddle, make sure you're looking at me."
Coleman started playing football in 7th grade. He didn't know about skullcaps then, and said his hearing aids posed a problem on the field.
"I needed something to keep my hearing aids from popping out when I had my helmet on," he said.
His mother got creative with hosiery on his head. She cut up old pantyhose that they wrapped around Coleman head.
He takes his hearing aids out to sleep, swim, and shower. Without them, all Coleman hears is the mumble of lower bass frequencies. He said he can't hear the high-pitched screams of female fans, but don't think he can't hear trash talk.
"I don't pay attention to it. I'm very good at knowing things. People always say I have selective hearing. Stuff you don't think I'm hearing I am hearing. But there's stuff I don't want to hear," he said.
He says he can tune out when he wants. He laughs saying teammate Marshawn Lynch is always picking on him, saying he thinks Coleman really can hear and doesn't get why everyone is making a big deal about him.
Coleman has his eyes on the prize and says it would be hurtful if his team didn't make it to the Super Bowl.
"When you get this close, part of the elite 8, and it's basically in your grasp, you got the top seed and everything, I mean you definitely don't want to squander that opportunity," he said.