Roy Exum: Bless Derrick Coleman

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When the Duracell people approached Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman about becoming part of a wonderful advertising campaign called “Trust Your Power,” there was just one reason he said he would do it. “OK, I want to join up … I just hope to inspire people, especially children, to trust the power within and achieve their dreams.”

Up until now the NFL star has been relatively private over the fact that he cannot hear the Seahawks’ raucous 12th Man crowd but this Sunday he will become the first legally-deaf player to ever play in the Super Bowl. His Seahawks will battle the Denver Broncos and, if you are searching for a reason to root for Seattle, you just found it. After playing for UCLA, he wasn’t drafted but because he trusted “the power within,” he became the first deaf player in the history of pro football.

“Every challenge I had, overcoming, it didn't come quick,” he told the Sporting News not long ago. “The biggest thing is just how persistent my mom and family were in not making me using my hearing aids as an excuse, telling me to work extra hard at everything I do as a person, no matter if I needed the hearing aids or not. Every kid faces some challenge growing up. I just had to prove to other people I was just like them, but I knew that right from the start. I was just as good as everybody else.”

Soon after the commercial appeared, he received a letter that meant almost more to him than a Super Bowl ring. “Dear Derrick Coleman (my inspiration),” began the note from Riley Kovalcik, age 9, of Roxbury, N.J.

“I know how you feel,” she wrote. “I also have hearing aids. Just try your best. I have fait (sic) in you Derrick. Good job on January 20th game. Go Seattle Seahawks! Here are some of the things we have in common: I where (sic) two hearing aids. I love sports. Other things are I’m a identical twin and my twin where’s (sic) one hearing aid too!”

As you might guess, it wasn’t long before the 23-year-old Coleman – who has been deaf since the age of 3 and was bullied as a child -- wrote back a hand-written letter:

“Dear Miss Kovalcik,

“Thanks for the letter. Really was great hearing from a friend who I have so much in common with. I appreciate you rooting for the Seahawks and me and hope you continue to do so when we play in the Super Bowl!!!

“I want you to know that I always try my best in everything I do and have faith in you and your twin sister, too. Even though we have hearing aids, we can still accomplish our goals and dreams. If you or your family is ever in Seattle, I hope we can all get together and play some sports or games!

“Take care, Derrick L. Coleman Jr. #40”

Riley’s father posted both letters on the Internet and obviously they have gone viral. “The only reason I put the tweet out was so that he can get to see that he's an inspiration for my kids,” he told the New York Daily News. “I don't think she's ever written to anyone like that, ever. She's a really confident little kid — this is a peek into what she's thinking on a daily basis. He's been so successful. He's somebody to look up to and he made her feel like hearing aids are cool.”

The Kovalciks have carefully taught their daughters, who lost their hearing shortly after birth, that they are “unique” and encourage them to try new things, just as Coleman urges young people to find a way to make their dreams happen.

“The biggest thing is, have no excuses in anything you do, and I'm not talking about just the hearing impaired, but everybody.” said the 230-pound bruiser who uses hearing aids and reads lips in order to play in the NFL. “If there's something you truly want to do, you'll find a way to do it. And it's not going to be easy; it's going to take a long time, and it's going to be hard.

“Believe in your dream, and if you don't get to your dream, make sure you've done everything you can to get there. Nobody's perfect, everybody has something to overcome, and everybody still has the opportunity to do what they want to do.”

Today little Riley Kovalcik believes she’ll root for Seattle in the Super Bowl; after all, No. 40 is her favorite player.

Riley Kovalcik, right, who is hearing impaired, wrote a note to Seattle Seahawks Derrick Coleman, who is also hearing impaired. legally deaf. She’s pictured with her identical twin sister, Erin, who also uses hearing aids.
Riley Kovalcik, right, who is hearing impaired, wrote a note to Seattle Seahawks Derrick Coleman, who is also hearing impaired. legally deaf. She’s pictured with her identical twin sister, Erin, who also uses hearing aids.

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