GROWING UP DEAF WAS NO DETERRENT
Every once in a while you are most fortunate to read a good biography. "No Excuses". The true life story of Derrick Coleman Jr, a NFL football player for the Seattle Sea Hawks, was an inspiring read that I recommend for young people.
His folks were a strange sort of family unit in many ways. Separated parents. A couple of kids from other relationships. Two addresses. Young parents trying to make it work. Some strikes against him that Derrick had to fight to overcome from day one. Yet, he was also blessed with a lot of love. A lot of hope, and a lot of dreams about something far better to come.
It wasn’t all fun and games, Whenever his mother called his name, he seemed to have a hard time responding to her. She figured he was being stubborn and hardheaded choosing to ignore her, He only responded to her inquiries when she used a very loud voice. One day young Derrick, who was now three years old, was sitting in Angelo’s barber’s chair. He was standing behind him and was saying something to him but their was no response. The parents decided to have Derrick’s hearing tested once again from their family doctor. Sure enough Derrick had suffered some hearing loss. The doctor advised the parents that the hearing loss would get worse with time. "Yeah, here’s another kid who’s going deaf. Deal with it."
Derrick was fitted with a pair of huge brown bug like hearing aids like unto antennas sticking out of his head prescribed by an Audiologist.
When he first put them on there was a smile that he could hear his mother’s voice clearly for the first time.
Learning to talk for a hearing-impaired person is no easy task. It is easier for a youngster who is born blind because they have a language and are able to converse while a deaf child has not have a language and can not speak. Despite Derrick`s disability, he attended regular schools, being mainstreamed into regular classes. His parents could have had him learn sign language but if he wanted to interact with others he needed to talk normally with them. Fortunately, reading lips came easily to him.
When you lose one of your senses then the others have a way of compensating. He wore a FM tuner in class and the teachers spoke into a microphone around her neck that helped magnify the sounds.
When I was a young boy I wore Coke bottle like glasses and I was sometimes called four eyes. Derrick was called four ears and was often mocked and bullied by his fellow classmates all the way through elementary school.
In high school Derrick fell in love with Football and was pleased when his Pediatrician gave him permission to play. He was able to take his frustrations out on the field and his self concept improved. Instead of being bullied he was the young football hero admired for his talents by the fans in the stands. His nemeses was how was he was going to keep his hearing-aids in when he was tackled. Mom solved the problem with a pair of cut up pantyhose.
UCLA offered him an athletic scholarship. In the fall of 2008 some 55,000 students had applied and only 12,000 had been accepted. He did well in school and became a role model for other hearing-handicapped young people. Derrick had been taught by his coaches and his parents that a college degree was very important to secure a meaningful career. Commitment was not just a word, it became his mantra for being successful.
Derrick wanted to play football in the National Football League. There were no hearing handicapped players in the league and if he made it he would be the first to wear a NFL uniform.
If by chance you do survive and end up a college senior and you are not limping or in a coma in a hospital then you can find yourself one of 3,500 other players who have a very slim chance of playing in the NFL. 100% of professional football players all get hurt, The rate for college football players is not much less. Here are the stats: in the USA there are 250 players who get drafted and get the chance to fulfill their dream.
Derrick was plagued with leg injuries but with the help of the trainers he has been able to keep on playing his dream sport. The gold standard for professional football is getting the chance to play in the Super Bowl. Sunday February 2, 2014 his team the Seahawk’s were the world champs for the first time with a final score of 43-8.
Every child faces some sort of challenge growing up. Nobody is perfect. Everyone has something to overcome. You have to go for your goal. Even if you do not get there you have tried your best - you are a winner.
I cut off my tongue in grade one missed a few weeks of school and my report card had one word, FAILED . Left with a speech impediment I was laughed at and bullied in the school yard. My small fists became my voice. I learned that no is maybe and maybe is yes and it has worked for me.