Sept. 16, 2011
By Peter Soroko, UCLA Sports Information Student Assistant
Going into an opponent's territory for an away game is always a tough task. A task made tougher when traveling into the heart of the Lone Star State to play in front of a Memorial Stadium record 101,437 fans ... against the seventh ranked team in the country.
This was the stage for the Bruins' 34-12 victory over the Texas Longhorns in late September last season. Sophomore running back Johnathan Franklin ran for 118 yards and a touchdown to go along with a spectacular performance by the Bruins' defensive unit that featured five forced turnovers.
However, there was another shining spot on the field that day. His name was Derrick Coleman.
Coleman tallied 94 yards on 16 carries, including a 29-yard touchdown run late in the game to help solidify the upset in Austin, TX.
After starting the first two games of the 2010 season, Coleman suffered a concussion in the third quarter against Stanford and was sidelined for the next game against Houston. But these setbacks did not slow down the 6-foot, 240 pound running machine. His play versus Texas was only the beginning, as he set two career highs in his 185-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Washington State game at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 2.
But Coleman is no stranger to overcoming adversity. He was born with a gene defect that resulted in nearly complete hearing loss. At first, his condition was uncertain, and family and friends believed it was just a minor speech impediment. Eventually, tests showed that his parents, May Hamlin and Derrick Coleman Sr., both carry a recessive gene that results in hearing loss. From then on, Coleman's mother emphasized that Derrick's condition is simply part of who he is.
Such a perception has stuck with Derrick throughout his life.
"People have asthma, people have contacts. Everybody has stuff they deal with," Coleman said.
He believes it is this mindset that has driven him to the success he's had in his first three years at UCLA. Coleman has never used it as a crutch, and by accepting it as part of who he is he's been able to focus on other aspects of his life - particularly football.
Coleman, a widely recruited fullback from Troy High School, entered UCLA in 2008 and looked to make an immediate impact on the program. The coaches noticed his aggressive and hard-nosed attitude in the early stages of fall camp, so he was deployed in a variety of ways.
"When I got here I finally decided that I love hitting people," said Coleman with a chuckle.
Since then he has developed all aspects of his game, from running hard to tackling well and blocking. By dedicating himself to the complete game of football, Coleman has seen consistent action as both a running back and as a member of the special teams unit.
Now, coming into his senior season, Coleman is looking to accomplish more. He wants to set the bar high for the UCLA running game, as well as to set the precedent for UCLA football in the years to come.
"I want to set the mark," Coleman declared. "John [Franklin] had 1,000 yards [rushing] last year, so now why can't we have two [running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards]?"