Mediaplanet: You have obviously dealt with challenges in realizing your dream. What helped to keep you motivated?  What words of encouragement do you have for others who may find themselves in a similar situation? 

Derrick Coleman: I would say my parents.  My mother never let me use any excuses and she treated me as if I could hear.  She let me do everything that any other kid could do.  Her and my father always preached no excuses.

MP: On the path to realizing your dream to play in the NFL, who would you say had the most influence on your success?

DC: I would most definitely say my parents.  Like I said, they always made sure that I could do whatever I wanted and pushed for me to compete and never let me give up or use any excuses in anything I did.  Whether it was in school or in sports, they always made sure I knew that I had to work harder than anyone to reach my dreams and aspirations.

MP: How has your hearing affected the way you communicate with others on and off the field?

DC: It really hasn’t affected my communication too much. I wear hearing aids throughout the day.  I only take them off when I shower, so I can hear pretty well with my aids in. But for example, if it’s in game and I can’t hear the call coming from the quarterback, I always tell him to look back at me so I can read his lips.  I’m a very good lip reader and that’s how I’m able to understand what you’re saying if I can’t actually hear you.

MP: How have you made use of innovative hearing technologies while attending classes, practicing or playing football, or going about your everyday activities? How have those technologies positively impacted your life?

DC: Like I stated earlier, I wear hearing aids daily-all day besides when I shower and when I sleep.  The technology now is amazing and I’m able to hear everything pretty much.  They pick up on every sound and I can hear as normal as possible.  I may have to ask you to repeat something every now and again, but I would say my hearing aids are near perfect.  They impacted my life because they have allowed me to live as normal as possible with my hearing disability.  I just pop them in and I can hear.  It’s pretty impressive.

MP: You are viewed as a hero among the deaf and hard of hearing community. If you could convey one morsel of wisdom to others in these communities, what would it be?

DC: No excuses.  Everything you do, do it to the best of your abilities. People are going to not want to have faith in us because of us being hard of hearing or deaf.  Let’s prove them wrong.  Yes, I may be playing in the NFL and proven many people wrong but one thing for sure is this is just the beginning.  Nobody is perfect, so don’t be ashamed of anything.

MP: What is the one misconception or stereotype about being deaf and hard of hearing that you'd like to debunk?

DC: The one thing I’d like to debunk is the stereotype of us being different and not being able to do the same thing everyone else can because of me being hearing impaired.  My parents always told me and showed me that I can do anything anyone else could.  They never made it seem like I was different, because I’m not.  So that’s one stereotype that I’d like to get rid of.   Even with the parents of those who are hearing impaired.  Treat them as if they could hear.  Don’t treat them in a way where they would feel sorry for themselves. That’s what my parents did, and I would say it worked out pretty good.

MP: How has your NFL experience opened new doors and new possibilities for you for you and young athletes aspiring to careers in professional football?

DC: It allows me to share my story with not only those who are like me and have the same hearing disability that I have, but to everyone chasing a dream. Anything is possible if you never give up and just believe in what you do, work hard and give no excuses while doing so. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something.  Do it and prove them wrong, that’s what I did.