Rookie running back Derrick Coleman is trying to make an impression on the Minnesota Vikings and earn a spot on the roster. Training camp is tough for a rookie and it’s even tougher for an undrafted free agent. The team doesn’t have anything invested in you, and you really have to stand out. And it’s tougher still for Coleman, who has a physical disability to overcome.
Coleman is hard of hearing. Although he’s not completely deaf, he wears hearing aids to help distinguish words and learned to read lips in order to be able to fully understand what people are saying.
“It doesn’t affect me that much anymore,” Coleman said at minicamp. “I sat down with the coaches and players in the quarterback room and let them know, ‘Whenever we change the play, you already say it twice, just turn around one time and say it one more time. It don’t hurt nobody.”
NFL training camp is a meritocracy. Prove to the coaches that you can help the team win, and you earn a spot on the roster. Despite the uphill climb, Coleman is already starting to impress his coaches.
“I can’t say enough about how bright the kid is,” Minnesota running backs coach James Saxon said. “I can’t say enough about how much of a hard worker he is. He’s at a point, I believe, just by watching him, he’s got a great desire to try and do things, do everything right.
“He takes meticulous notes. He asks the right questions. He doesn’t make mistakes twice. And if he does make a mistake, he wants to know why and how and how to correct it and move forward. He shows a lot of maturity that way.”
Coleman has the brains, determination and tools to beat the odds and overcome his disability. In fact, he’s already demonstrated that he won’t let his hearing deficit hinder his performance on the field.
“He’s got a hearing issue,” Saxon said. ” To me, I don’t see that. All I see is a young hungry guy who wants to try and come help this football team be better.
“Everybody has a different way. Some guys are more visual than others. He just happens to be a little more visual than the rest of the guys.”
His key to making the roster is to find a spot where he can help the team win. Can he contribute on the NFL level? Unfortunately, it’s too soon to tell, but with what he accomplished in college, he does have the ability. Coleman played at UCLA and was a bruising power runner, and contributor on special teams. He finished his career at UCLA with 19 TDs and 1,780 yards rushing, with an impressive 5.2 yards per carry.
Coleman is dedicated, likes to hit and is happy to contribute wherever he can – whether that be running the ball or on special teams, which could be his best entry point to the roster. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart to run the ball, but a short yardage back who can contribute on special teams could earn him a spot. And he can’t wait to prove himself.
“Wait till we get the pads on,” Coleman said. “It took me two years to realize it in college, but the last two years, I know my strength is the power running. That’s what I do.”
“I have a lot of versatility. I love to play special teams, whatever they ask me to do — go out there and make tackles or whatever. They need me on field goal, I’ll go play field goal because I love to contribute.”
He’s definitely got all the pieces he needs – the brains, the determination and the right attitude. Only time will tell if he earns a roster spot, but with what he’s already overcome in getting this far, I wouldn’t bet against him.