Football Hero Becomes Role Model for Deaf Children

Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman didn’t quite win the Most Valuable Player award this year in the Hawks’ Super Bowl romp over the Denver Broncos, but don’t tell that to hundreds of hearing-impaired youngsters who watched the game as his guests. As far as they were concerned, he was the MVP for all time and a lock for the Hall of Fame. And who’s to say they’re wrong?
It all began in January, when Coleman, who is deaf himself, recorded a commercial for Duracell batteries. It told of his journey from being a bullied deaf child to his eventual emergence as a football hero, his deafness pretty much unknown until the commercial appeared. It turned out to be a winner, one that touched many people. As they say in the social media world, it went viral, and an estimated 15 million viewers watched it. Among them was the Kovalcik family of Roxbury, New Jersey, and that’s when the story really got started.
Coleman’s deafness hit home for the Kovalciks’ twin girls, Riley and Erica, 9, both of whom have hearing problems and wear hearing aids. Until they saw the commercial, they never dreamed that someone who was deaf could go on to football stardom, and Riley Kovalcik decided to write directly to Coleman. “I know how you feel,” she wrote. “I also have hearing aids. I have faif [sic] in you Derrick good job on January 20th game” (for the league championship, against the San Francisco Forty-Niners).
The girls’ father, Jake, posted the letter on his Twitter account, and eventually it reached Coleman himself. He wrote back to little Riley: “Really was great hearing from a friend who I have so much in common with. Even though we wear hearing aids, we can still accomplish our goals and dreams... I hope we can all get together & play some sports or games!”
Coleman may not have known it at the time, but it was that exchange that got the ball rolling. One deaf youngster who benefited from Coleman’s generosity was a namesake: 10-year-old Jack Coleman of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who was completely surprised by his hero in a sporting-goods store. “I had no idea,” Jack said, astonished. “I’d been looking all over for a Derrick Coleman jersey, and there he was!” The boy not only received his jersey (signed), but also an autographed football and tickets to the Super Bowl for his whole family.
Then there were the 100 children from area who were fitted for new hearing aids by doctors at MetLife Stadium, again through the courtesy of Derrick Coleman. His interviews and his exchanges with others easily describe what motivates him.
When Jake Kovalcik first wrote to thank him because “you’ve inspired my little girls in a way I never could,” Coleman told him, “Your girls are awesome! Thank you for the support. Means a lot!”
All of them finally met on the set of “Good Morning America,” when Riley and Erica thought they were simply being interviewed, and then were stunned to see Coleman himself.
When it was his turn to speak he explained what he had in mind.
 “One of my goals is to help others in the hard-of-hearing and deaf community,” he said. “And kids? Who couldn’t relate to them?”
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, SEEING CHRIST IN OTHERS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org                        
 

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