Deaf Seahawks player inspires young hearing-impaired fans

Riley and Erin Kovalcik were born with a genetic condition that left them partially deaf. Riley wrote a letter to deaf football player Derrick Coleman, of the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks, to tell him how he inspired her and her sister
Riley and Erin Kovalcik were born with a gene... 02:31

FLANDERS, N.J. -- Nine-year-old twins Riley and Erin Kovalcik were born with a genetic condition that left them partially deaf. Last week, they saw a TV commercial featuring the Seattle Seahawks' Derrick Coleman.

Riley and Erin Kovalcik CBS News

"I thought it was very touching because I didn’t think there was any athlete that actually could play that could be exactly hearing impaired like me and Erin," Riley says. "Like, I mean, seriously!"

"I saw the battery commercial. I remembered him saying he was bullied, and I was like, 'What? How is he a football player? I mean, he's really strong, but how does he let them bully him?'" Erin says.

Riley herself was picked on in school and was told not to play sports - a warning she ignored. After the Seahawks won last weekend, Riley picked up a pencil.

Jake Kovalcik CBS News
 "Dear my inspiration Derrick Coleman," she says, reading her letter. "I know how you feel. I also have hearing aids. Just try your best. I have faith in you."

Their father Jake tweeted a picture of the letter, hoping Coleman would see it.

"I just wanted him to know how much he's doing for deaf kids and little kids and all kids with disabilities," Jake says. "It doesn’t matter that you're deaf. It doesn't matter that you may have some other disability. You can be exceptional too."

That night, the Seahawks re-tweeted the letter. It's been shared and re-tweeted 2,700 times.

Coleman was a star at UCLA but went undrafted and had to fight for an NFL tryout. Now he's Super Bowl-bound. Last week, Coleman spoke to Bill Whitaker about his message to disabled kids.

"I want to let them know that I did what I wanted to do, that you can do it too, no matter what the obstacles are, you can always achieve what you wanted to do," Coleman said.

Last night, Coleman tweeted back to Riley Kovalcik, saying, "I want you to know that I always try my best in everything I do and have faith in you and your twin sister, too!"

The girls have one more message for their inspiration.

"Good luck in the Super Bowl," Erin says, "and go Seahawks!"

Learn more:
Listen and Talk

  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.