When Derrick Coleman became the first legally deaf offensive football player in the NFL to win a Super Bowl title in early 2014, he catapulted into the national spotlight. Hearing loss, the health condition Derrick shares with millions of Americans, became the focus of national media attention. On the field, Derrick relies on hand signals, lip reading and two powerful hearing aids made by Starkey Hearing Technologies.
As a testament to his dedication to Starkey Hearing Technologies and Starkey Hearing Foundation, Derrick took time out of his busy schedule to help the Foundation fit hearing aids the day before he played in, and won, his first Super Bowl Championship.
He explains his decision to partner with Starkey in an article on Next Impulse Sports:
“The way Starkey reached out to me when I first went to Minnesota as an undrafted NFL player is the same way they reach out to everyone else…The Starkey Hearing Foundation is amazing. I have had several youth and young adults Facebook message me or tweet me regarding their need for hearing aids, and Starkey stepped in and made their dreams a reality.”
Derrick is most revered for his role as an advocate for those with hearing loss, especially children. Thousands of children with hearing loss follow Derrick on Facebook and Twitter, admiring his tenacity and fortitude. To many, the Super Bowl ring he wears represents success and overcoming obstacles. Derrick openly shares his personal triumphs and defeats, masterfully creating a community of like-minded people focused on hope and inspiration. Despite his many commitments, Derrick takes time to personally respond to the posts his fans share. Everyday moments, including a hit at a tee ball game, a tackle in a peewee football game, or a new set of hearing aids are shared among the fans that follow Derrick’s pages. Derrick remains relatable and accessible, drawn to the personal stories of hope and inspiration from his youngest fans.
In 2013, Coleman was featured in Duracell commercial, which has now been viewed more than 23 million times on YouTube alone. The commercial depicts the struggles Derrick faced, being teased as a child and then being passed over in the 2012 draft, he explains, “They told me I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live my dream. But, I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.”
The commercial has been an inspiration to many, but for one award winning director who tried to hide his unilateral hearing loss for decades, the video did more than just inspire him, it helped him face his fear of correcting his own hearing loss. Rik Cordero explained to Complex.com that, “Derrick’s Duracell commercial made me realize that I shouldn’t be ashamed of Single Sided Deafness (SSD), or feel the need to mask it with passiveness. Hearing impairment is nothing to be ashamed about, in fact it’s made me who I am. The uncertainty, the tears, the support of my family has put me into a position where I today.”
To more than 35 million deaf and hard of hearing individuals Derrick embodies excellence both on the field and off. As a decorated player who excels at one of our nations favorite pastimes he amazes many by remaining humble off the field. It is easy to see why the success of #40 has inspired a generation of young people.