A sea of Cardinals’ red stormed the bleachers of the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf basketball court on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Students clutched homemade-signs and footballs, wiggling in their seats in anticipation to meet Arizona Cardinals’ Fullback Derrick Coleman, the first and only legally Deaf offensive player in the NFL.
The drumming of a large bass suddenly reverberated throughout the bleachers as cheers erupted in excitement. It’s an entrance Coleman has been accustomed to each time he walks onto a football field. But this time it’s different because the crowd cheering is just like him. They waved their open hands in the air – the ASL sign for applause.
Before Coleman was making history and winning Super Bowl titles, he was just like the students sitting before him. He lost his hearing at three years old making it difficult to communicate. He says he never had what the children at PDSD have today – a community.
He immediately exuded a humble and giving presence, taking time to walk across the bleachers and have conversations with students. “All the bullying that you’ve been through, I’ve had that experience,” he says. “You’re not alone in it, but keep a smile on your face and keep going!”
Persistence and hard work got him to the NFL. He says that his mom pushed him to be vocal about his hearing loss and ask questions if he didn’t understand a teacher or coach the first time. Coleman encouraged all the PDSD students to embody that same drive and determination when chasing their dreams.
After the Q & A, there were smiles all around as he took photos and signed memorabilia for our students and staff. We are so thankful for Derrick Coleman and the Arizona Cardinals for giving our students such an unforgettable experience. We also want to thank Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for arranging everything!