If somebody tells Derrick Coleman he doesn’t have much of a shot in Vikings camp, he won’t hear it.
Not because he’s unwilling. Because he can’t.
The undrafted rookie running back from UCLA has the added challenge of being hard of hearing, requiring effort most players don’t have to expend, just to know what play to run.
“I never let it hold me back,” Coleman told Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Not once.”
Coleman was diagnosed with the condition, caused by a missing gene, when he was 3 years old. He wears hearing aids, but any situation with a lot of ambient noise (like a football game), renders them not much help and requires him to read lips. Sometimes in a huddle, that means grabbing the quarterback after a play call to double-check. He told Scoggins he only had three communication problems on the field, and two of them were as a high school freshman.
“I always know what the play is going to be,” he said. “I don’t move until the ball moves so I shouldn’t have a false-start incident.”
His parents never let him use the condition as a crutch, and to this day he’s become a master at adapting. He wears a pair of skull caps under his helmet; one to keep his hearing aids dry and one to keep them in his ears.
He’s also been willing to talk to hearing-impaired students, trying to erase any stigma bullies might latch onto by pointing out that kids with less-than-perfect sight wear glasses all the time.
“It really serves as an inspiration to those kids because what happens is those kids tend to go into their own shell,” said Coleman’s father, Derrick Sr. “They think, ‘Well, I’m different. I’m not like the other kids.’ Derrick helps dispel that.”
Whether he makes the Vikings roster or not, that makes Coleman’s story worth following, and admiring.