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We Are Not Our Limitations

From Silence To Super Bowl

“They told me it couldn’t be done – that I was a lost cause. Coaches didn’t’ know how to talk to me. They gave up on me – told me I should quit. They didn’t call my name. Told me it was over. But I’ve been deaf since I was 3…so I didn’t listen.”

On Sunday, February 2, 2014 in a cold, dome-less, New Jersey stadium, Seattle Seahawks running back Derrick Coleman will do something many people told him would never be possible – he’ll be the first deaf NFL player to play in the Super Bowl.

Deaf from the age of 3, young Derrick suffered bullying as a result of his speech and hearing aids. But as he grew, he developed his love of football. Although he was repeatedly told he wouldn’t succeed in the game, nothing curtailed his passion or his ability.

He worked harder than anyone else on the team and learned to be creative on the field.

Derrick’s hearing aids often fell out during plays, so his mother fashioned a pair of pantyhose as a head wrap so the devices would stay put. He also taught himself how to lip read so he can understand spur of the moment plays from the quarterback. Sometimes he even sees being deaf as an asset. “When the stadium gets loud, I feel like I have the advantage,” he said. “I can tune that out.”

But the most amazing element of Derrick’s story is his ability not to view his disability as a negative and happily ignore those who judge him for being deaf.

“I don’t ever use it as an excuse,’’ he said. “That's who I am. It’s made me who I am today.”

Derrick Coleman used his tenacity, drive and his power within to lead him to the Super Bowl game no one ever thought he’d play. He has become an inspiration to many in the deaf community and beyond. But his story also makes us wonder how often do those who can hear only listen to the voices that tell us we won’t succeed, that bully us for being different or that tell us we should quit?

We cannot hide from our challenges. Fearing them, despising them or pretending they don’t exist does not make them go away. It’s acceptance of our perceived challenges that allow us to move beyond them. We are not our story. We are not our limitations. We are all only perfect Divine beings filled with love, purpose, passion and joy.

No matter how the game plays out on February 2, Derrick says his hearing won’t be an issue.

“It’s never held me back and it’s not going to start now.’’