The Bruins never did use him as a spy. But they played him at tailback, as promised, and he rewarded them with a four-year total of 1,780 yards and an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He went the wrong way only once, on a screen pass, and it wasn't because he didn't hear the play call.
Otherwise, his UCLA career was fairly nondescript -- unless you want to count the time he almost ripped out his own quarterback's face mask.
"Well, I need to know the play," Coleman says. "So there was one time in college where he was tellin' everybody his play, and he went back to hike it, and he didn't tell me. So I just ran up there and I grabbed him by [the mask] and just pulled him around, like, 'Hey, what's the play!'"
Clearly, he took football seriously. He told coaches he enjoyed special teams as much as he enjoyed offense. NFL scouts began to sniff around. He was 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, with a personal best of 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His hearing impairment didn't seem to be an issue anymore. He was projected as a late-round pick in the 2011 draft. He made sure to turn his hearing aids up on draft days 1, 2 and 3. This, he was going to hear.
But it was 72 hours of absolutely nothing. The phone calls never came until the draft was ending -- from teams lining up to sign him as an undrafted free agent. His parents will tell you that when their son grows quiet, it means he's fairly upset. And when he looks away from you, it means he's borderline livid -- because no one looks people more in the eye (or in the mouth) than Derrick Coleman.
He was fuming that day, and although he's still not exactly sure why he was bypassed, his mother will say what everybody was thinking:
"In the back of my mind, I kind of thought it was because of his hearing," she says. "They still don't get it. They still don't understand it does not affect his play. And so, yeah, that was the heartbreak. Like, they still don't get it."
He soon became an experiment of the Minnesota Vikings, who signed him to their 2012 practice squad. But he was cut early in the 2012 season, and, according to close friends, it was due to his recurring fumbles, not anything with his hearing.
He returned home to Fullerton, where his former high school assistant, Kevin Hastin, had become Troy's new head coach. Hastin invited him to join his staff, which was symmetrical, in a way. The last time Coleman had had a fumble issue, it had happened at Troy. And after the Minnesota fumbles, he was back at Troy again, around people who believed.
The entire high school season, he continued to work out. And by the end of 2012, just like old times, Pete Carroll was on the phone.
Now the Seahawks head coach, Carroll was recruiting him a second time as a fullback. Carroll had a shortage of blocking backs, and his scouts still considered Coleman a player to keep an eye on. Carroll invited him up for a workout, unsure if Coleman's hearing defect would emerge as a hindrance. "At first, you know, we weren't sure," Carroll says. "I had recruited him in high school, so I knew him. But we weren't sure how it was going to factor in because I never got a chance to coach him."
Carroll would commit to signing him only to his 2012 practice squad, with the promise of a second look during 2013 training camp. That gave Coleman time to cozy up to Russell Wilson.