The Super Bowl is a way for us to come together and celebrate the accomplishments of NFL teams, coaches, and individual players, plus we get to enjoy delicious food and beverages while watching the plays unfold on the field. Or, if you don't care much for the football, you're just in it for the commercials. Anyway, the teams made it this far for a reason, right? Let's take a moment to look outside of the realm of commercials, food, and downs and celebrate the accomplishments of NFL players who have persevered with something seen as an obstacle that few players experience. Pursuing your dream and getting drafted into the NFL is an achievement, to be sure, but some players have attained their dream while also experiencing difficulty hearing.
Bonnie Sloan was born with profound hearing loss and became the first person with profound hearing loss to play in the NFL. After playing football very successfully in high school and college, he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals (now known as the Arizona Cardinals) in 1973, but a knee injury in the same year shortened his career. On August 25, 2013, Sloan was honored in Hendersonville, TN, and the day was proclaimed "Bonnie Sloan Day." Although his NFL career was short, his perseverance in following his dream laid a foundation of inspiration for future players.
If you've been on the Internet, you've probably seen Duracell's viral commercial featuring Derrick Coleman, the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. The commercial recreates Coleman's experiences of hearing impairment and wearing hearing aids since childhood (at age 3 he was officially diagnosed). The narration explains how he kept moving forward and pursuing his dreams after many people told him he should quit. If anyone needs an inspiration for perseverance, Derrick Coleman is it. A 9-year-old fan who wears hearing aids wrote him a letter; check it and his response out here.
Born in 1988, Ryan Kerrigan was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in his left ear at the age of eight after a series of childhood ear infections. He didn’t let that stop him from playing, though, and it paid off. In his senior year of high school, he was an all-state selection, and as a student at Purdue University, he was honored for multiple achievements, including a place on the All-America second team in 2009. In the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, Kerrigan was picked by the Redskins and changed from the position of defensive end to an outside linebacker. In the same year (which was also the year of the NFL lockout), Kerrigan gave an interview in which he stated that he felt "pretty normal" but that he did have trouble hearing someone at his left side.
There are other professional athletes, not only in football, who have overcome their hearing difficulties to pursue their dreams. We’ll be including them in future blog posts, so if you’d like to suggest or request a specific person, let us know!
Last Updated: January 29, 2014