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Parents Of NFL Star With Hearing Impairment Say Their Son Always Defied The Odds

FULLERTON (   — Getting to the NFL is tough enough. Getting there when you have a physical disability is that much harder.

But to listen to Derrick Coleman's parents, the fact their son was hearing impaired since he was about 3, has never been much of a problem for him.

CBS2's Paul Magers reports Coleman's parents always knew their son was destined for great things. He was also always in a hurry.

His mother remembers she had to cut through rush-hour traffic just to get to the hospital the day he was born.

"His grandmother ended up going in a lane she wasn't supposed to," says May Hamlin, "and a police officer stopped her and she said, 'Well, she's in labor,' so he was like 'Go ahead.' "

Like all new parents, Derrick's parents had high hopes for their son.

"I went through the whole range of emotions. But the day that he came here, all that was set aside and that one of the most happiest days of my life," says Derrick Coleman Sr.

When Derrick Jr. was about 3, his parents noticed something was different.

"I would take him to the barber shop, and the barber would always talk to him, and he didn't really respond. I wasn't sure why," said Derrick Sr.

"His speech wasn't developing appropriately like a 2-year-old or 3-year-old speech should develop," says May.

A diagnosis soon confirmed that Derrick could only hear about 25 percent in both ears. He would need to wear hearing aids.

"When I found out something was wrong," says May, "tt was kind of like heart-wrenching. Like my heart just dropped. Something is really wrong with my child."

His father recalls it was a difficult time for all.

"It was a really trying time for us," says Derrick Sr. "What is his future going to be like? Is he going to be able to play with other kids? How is he going to communicate?"

The young boy went to a speech therapist and learned how to read lips. Still, school would be a challenge.

"They would call him 'four ears.' They would knock his hearing aids out. They wouldn't want to play with him because he was different. He would be alone on the blacktop by himself," says May.

Coleman was taunted and bullied but believes it made him a stronger person. He still feels the sting of being bullied.

"In terms of me wearing hearing aids and people picking on you, because of that, it kind of takes you to another whole kind of level," Coleman says.

"Even though he was young," says May, "I still wanted him to understand if someone was making fun of you or teasing you, move yourself away from that person and find kids that will play with you."

It was his parents who also taught him to keep his cool and not use his fists.

"We would always talk to Derrick when he came home from school. We would talk to him in the room, about how to deal with it. About not fighting because a natural instinct is to want to fight," said his dad.

By the time Derrick was in seventh grade, sports became his outlet — first basketball, then football.

"I was definitely afraid," says May, "when Derrick came to us initially and said he wanted to play football. My fear was that whatever hearing he had at that point, whatever little hearing that was responding to the hearing aid, I didn't want that to be jeopardized."

Playing the game became his security blanket.

"When you're in between those white lines, football is the only thing that matters, nothing else matters," says Derrick Jr. "Problems at home, hearing problems, depression. Everything is out the window."

He was first a standout while playing for Troy High School in Fullerton. Coleman later blossomed into a dominant player at UCLA. He signed on with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks last year as a free agent.

He reads the quarterback's lips when he calls the plays and reacts by sight when the ball is snapped.

"Everybody wants to be judged on how they perform," says Derrick Jr. "They just want to be given an opportunity. That's what I love about football."

In addition to being a role model for young people on the field, Derrick Jr. is also starring in a commercial for Duracell.

"He's not just a Super Bowl champion," says his dad, "he's a representative of our family."

Junior wouldn't have had it any other way.

"At the end of the day, I'm glad I had my parents," he say. "They were able to keep me sane. Sometimes, I just wanted to give up. I felt different than everybody else. I was different than everybody else. But nobody wants to be different; everybody wants to be the same."

Whether he wants to be seen as different or not, he almost can't help it.

Many athletes have been making news for all the wrong reasons.

This summer, Coleman made news when he gave up his first-class seat to Seattle to a Marine, telling the military man he was giving him his seat as a small appreciation for his service.

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