The way Cardinals fullback Derrick Coleman sees it, it’s not just what’s between his ears that has kept him in the NFL since 2012, it’s also what’s behind those ears. .
Coleman, who has been legally deaf since the age of 3, has never shied away from talking about his disability and his career in the NFL. Because without the disability, he said, there would have been no travel.
“It forced me to work harder, not just on the football field but in the classroom,” he said. “For example, when someone tells me I can’t do something, I take it personally. The only person allowed to tell me that I can’t do something is myself.
There were plenty of other people who tried. A few coaches. Classmates who picked him last in pickup games. A high school Spanish teacher who told him he was going to miss class.
This prompted Coleman’s mother to go to school.
“She said, ‘First of all, don’t tell my son, and second, what can we do to help him? Don’t just tell him he’s going to fail and leave it at that. “
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It was one of the few times Coleman’s parents sided with him over that of a teacher. Most often, they asked their son to understand what was being said in class. No pity party was organized at home if he didn’t.
“If I came home and said, ‘I didn’t hear the professor when they said that,’ I was the one who was in trouble, ‘Coleman said. “My mother was like, ‘Why didn’t you go back up there to ask her?’ “
It all fueled a ‘look at me’ attitude that Coleman says is one of the main reasons he went to UCLA as a running back and then reached the NFL in 2012 with the Seahawks. .
Dad preached tenacity. Mom didn’t allow an apology.
“Not everyone has people like my parents to harass them and push them about the little things before they become big things,” he said.
This will be the first season since 2012 that the Cardinals will have a fullback in the lineup. Elijhaa Penny, a converted running back, is in competition with Coleman, although Coleman is the favorite to take the job.
Coleman’s career has not been without obstacles. He was signed by the Vikings as a rookie free agent in 2012, was cut and then taken over by the Seahawks. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to assault and hit-and-run charges and was suspended for four games by the NFL.
Coleman was sentenced to community service and one year of probation. He missed the entire 2016 season.
“In the end, I left it in the hands of God,” he said. “I do what I can do, control my faith, my attitude, my effort. But I definitely had the thought in mind, “I might be done. Maybe I wasted my chance.”
The Falcons signed him a year ago and he’s played 15 games. On offense, his main job was to block for a running game averaging 115 yards per game. Coleman has only run 12 times and caught 13 assists in his career.
The Cardinals haven’t invested much in Coleman, signing him to a one-year contract worth $ 790,000, provided he makes the squad. Not a penny of the money is guaranteed.
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Coleman, however, was impressive in training camp and is considered a good special teams player.
“It’s fun to be with him because he’s so smart,” said running back coach Kirby Wilson, “and he’s a great leader, not just by example but he communicates with the guys. on what to look for, what they can do better next time. “
Coleman began honing his communication skills at an early age due to his hearing loss. He has learned to read lips and does not use sign language even though he took a course in college.
In the caucus, he looks intently at the quarterback. If play changes drastically on the line of scrimmage, Coleman takes it upon himself to make sure the quarterback turns to him and relays the beep. He can’t hear the quarterback’s count, so his focus is intensely on the ball. When it moves, it moves.
“It’s really not a problem,” said starting quarterback Sam Bradford of Coleman’s hearing loss. “On the line you have to be clear with the points so he knows who the ‘Mike’ is (the linebacker). But other than that, there’s really nothing he can’t do.
Coleman is the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player and isn’t shy about telling his story to anyone who asks. There are “tons of people” who still need help, he said, and who knows how many will be affected by a story in the newspaper, or a conversation with a teammate or a stranger on a plane?
Sometimes people ask if there are any surgical options that could restore some of the hearing. Coleman has no interest.
“I don’t want it,” he said. “This is who I am. I accept it and love it.