Focus on: Derrick Coleman

Posted Sep 2, 2013

The Seahawks’ starting fullback in Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Panthers will be Derrick Coleman, a tailback from UCLA who is just learning the position and also happens to be legally deaf.

When the Seahawks deploy a lead blocker for All-Pro tailback Marshawn Lynch in Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Panthers in Carolina, that fullback will be Derrick Coleman.

That’s the same Derrick Coleman who was a tailback at UCLA and was signed to the Seahawks’ practice squad last December. Oh, and he’s legally deaf.

Talk about overcoming serious odds while making a quantum leap. What did Coleman show the coaches to make a commitment that included terminating the contract of Pro Bowl-caliber fullback Michael Robinson?

“Everything,” coach Pete Carroll said after the team’s “Bonus Monday” practice, when Coleman was indeed the fullback with the No. 1 offense. “He just came through in a beautiful way. He sent a big message about special teams. He’s had a great camp on special teams. He’s all over the place; he’s a core guy there.

“We know he can carry the ball, too, if we need him to. He catches the ball really well. And he’s learning the system as a fullback. He outlasted the competition in this one to go into the opener as the starter. That’s a big accomplishment for Derrick, and we’re really excited about him.”

Roster reduction day can get the best of the best players. But Coleman knew he had done everything possible to prove to the coaches that he deserved a spot on the 53-man roster, if not the starting job. As it turned out, he won both.

“Most definitely,” said Coleman said of his did-the-best-I-could approach to Saturday – when he was eating banana pancakes with Chandler Fenner, a cornerback who’s on the injured reserve list, when he got the call from his agent telling him that he was one of the 53.

“One thing I learned at UCLA was, ‘Have no regrets.’ Everything I did, I did it to my best. Even if I made a mistake, I made it fast, I made it physical. I try to limit the mental mistakes. The coaches can coach you up. That’s what they’re there for. But as long as I was dependable. As my coach likes to say, ‘You’ve got to be dependable. You’ve got to go out there and play hard, play fast and be coachable and let the pieces fall where they are.”

That coach is Sherman Smith, the Seahawks’ original running back. It was Smith who offered early in training camp, “Derrick shows that he can do it. He’s got the want-to and he’s a very intelligent guy, so he’s handling it mentally. He’s doing a nice job. I think the guy has a chance to be a good fullback in this league.”

And the 6-foot, 233-pound Coleman also got coached up by the player he is replacing – Robinson.

“I learned a lot from Mike Rob,” Coleman said. “I have a lot of respect for him. Almost everything I know and I learned is from asking him questions and watching his technique.”

Coleman also is savvy enough to know that now is no time to rest on preseason laurels.

“I’m happy that I get an opportunity to go out there and play and help this team do something,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve just got to keep working hard because it doesn’t stop here.”

No, Derrick Coleman is just getting started.