No one on Long Island will be rooting harder for Derrick Coleman and the Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday than 15-year-old Jonatan Caravantes.
Caravantes, like Coleman, is legally deaf. He also loves football and played for the East Islip junior varsity team this past fall.
"I'm a big fan of Derrick Coleman," Caravantes wrote in an email to Newsday Tuesday. "I feel so proud that a deaf player is going to the Super Bowl. It's like a dream!"
Caravantes, a 5-8, 260-pound nose tackle, was born deaf. Unlike Coleman, he does not benefit from any auditory communication. That means he does not wear a hearing aid and communicates primarily through sign language.
He was interviewed for this story via email.
The Huntington Station resident first became interested in football while watching games on television with his father. Humberto Caravantes would explain the game to his son by drawing up the plays after they unfolded on television.
Caravantes has attended the Cleary School for the Deaf since his family moved to Long Island from El Salvador when he was 11. Caravantes now attends the Cleary Secondary School, an integrated program at East Islip High School, and when Caravantes began his freshman year he knew he wanted to play football for East Islip. Though the school had a sign-language interpreter work with the team, a number of players, including the team's quarterback, learned some sign language on their own this past season.
When told at Tuesday's Media Day that he had a deaf football-playing fan on Long Island, Coleman smiled.
"I'd like to tell him to go out there and do what he wants to do," the running back said. "If you really want something, you'll find a way to make it happen."
Caravantes believes that Coleman being in the Super Bowl and appearing in an inspirational Duracell commercial that talked about the hurdles that he has had to overcome has been an inspiration to him and others.
"I want to thank Derrick for inspiring the whole Deaf community," Caravantes wrote, adding that he was cheering for Coleman to "win the Super Bowl and prove to America and the world that the Deaf can do ANYTHING."