Blake McCulloch poses with Phil Campbell Elementary School principal Jackie Ergle and his teacher, Michelle Marbutt, who helped orchestrate the shout out from NFL player Derrick Coleman. Photo by Bart Moss.
Blake McCulloch poses with Phil Campbell Elementary School principal Jackie Ergle and his teacher, Michelle Marbutt, who helped orchestrate the shout out from NFL player Derrick Coleman. Photo by Bart Moss.

Archived Story

PCES student gets special message from NFL player

Published 3:01pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

By Bart Moss

For the FCT

Derrick Coleman is the fullback for the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks. Derrick Coleman is also deaf.

Obviously, Coleman has had to overcome some tremendous obstacles to achieve his dream of playing in the National Football League and the Super Bowl, and he is using his platform as a vehicle to help young people with hearing disabilities achieve great things themselves.

His foundation is called “No Excuses.” He uses this foundation to offer free hearing aids in the Seattle area to children with hearing impairments. He also uses his Facebook page to connect with and inspire children with hearing disabilities.

“They told me I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live my dream. But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen,” says the tagline on Coleman’s Facebook page.

When Michelle Marbutt, Phil Campbell Elementary’s speech and language pathologist, heard about Coleman, she had an idea.

Blake McCulloch, a second grade student at PCES, is deaf and has to use a hearing aid. The problem, according to Marbutt, is that Blake didn’t want to use the hearing aids – not because they were uncomfortable or didn’t work well, but because of something else.

“I didn’t want to wear my hearing aid because I thought other kids might make fun of me,” McCulloch said.

Self-esteem issues can be a challenge in any school setting with any child, but those issues can be particularly challenging when the child is disabled for any reason.

Coleman said in an interview with USA Today that he has had to endure the insults and jokes.

“Elementary school can be the cruelest place on Earth,” he said.

“Truth is spoken there, for better or worse. I was repeatedly called names like ‘Four Ears’ because of my hearing aids.”

So Marbutt took a picture of young Blake McCullock holding a poster he made for Coleman before the Super Bowl. She sent the picture to Coleman through Facebook and waited.

Finally on Saturday, Marbutt heard her phone ding. When she looked down at her phone it was a message from Derrick Coleman thanking her for the picture and told her to look at his Facebook page and get Blake to look also.

What Marbutt saw brought tears to hear eyes.

Coleman had posted Blake’s photo on his Facebook page with a message that reads: “Hey Blake you are right hearing aids are cool and keeping them on at school is even cooler.”

Monday was Dr. Seuss Day at PCES, part of national Read Across America week, but PCES principal Jackie Ergle wanted to use the opportunity to surprise Blake with Coleman’s actions.

At a school-wide assembly Monday afternoon, Ergle began by recognizing Blake and Marbutt, who unveiled the message to Blake while he beamed – a wide grin stretching across his face.

“I hope this inspires Blake to work hard and see that there are other children his age that have similar disabilities,” Marbutt said.

“He can’t let it hold him back just like Derrick Coleman didn’t let it hold him back.

“I hope this also sends a message to other kids that making fun of children with disabilities is not right and is rude.”

Ergle is proud of the effort that Marbutt made and said that it was exemplary of what her faculty does for students at PCES.

“This is just another wonderful example of what our staff at Phil Campbell Elementary School does to impact a child’s life,” she said.

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