Philadelphia Eagles News

Rough Freshman Year Toughened Coleman

Sure, strong safety Kurt Coleman wanted to be selected prior to the seventh round in the 2010 NFL Draft.

But it wasn't the most difficult thing he's had to overcome.

Far from it.

During a spring practice two weeks into in his freshman year, Coleman went to tackle wide receiver Tyson Gentry. It was on a simple curl route, Coleman said. However, the way Coleman brought down Gentry, it broke his neck and left him paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair.

Coleman thought of quitting football. But after he was forgiven by Gentry during a hospital visit, Coleman fought on.

That wasn't the only challenge that Coleman had to overcome his freshman year. In December, his father, Ron, called to inform him that he had breast cancer. Today, Coleman's dad is a breast cancer survivor. But those two events forced the young Coleman to grow up in a hurry.

"It really helped me grow up as a person. It forced me to become someone people could rely on," Coleman said. "It taught me to respect life and what goes on around you. It motivated me to become the best player I could be at Ohio State."

Coleman was the quarterback of the Buckeyes defense as he was named a first-team All-American by *The Sporting News *and first-team All-Big Ten after he racked up 68 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2009. A team captain and MVP, Coleman was part of the Buckeyes class to win the most games in school history with 44. This past season, Ohio State broke a three-year bowl losing streak by winning the Rose Bowl over Oregon. For a historic program to enjoy extraordinary success, it takes not just talent but strong leadership to push through the difficult times.

"I think you have to be very poised and be able to respond to any situation, especially being able to respond to adversity. A lot of people can be good in good situations, but when things are down what are you going to do to respond to the team," Coleman said. "I think that's what makes a great leader. I think anytime we got down, anytime we were in a situation where they needed to rely on me I was able to step up to make the play, help the defense."

So, exactly how did Coleman last until the 244th overall selection of the draft?

Size. He's 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds.

But those two events his freshman year molded him into a man who plays bigger than his size.

"It's really just will. I think I have more will than a lot of people. If there's an opportunity where a running back's coming through the hole, he's going down regardless of his size," Coleman said. "It's all about my heart and my desire. If you look at the statistics, my statistics are right there with anyone."

Coleman said that he talked with the Eagles last week prior to the draft and knew that he was on their radar. Even though he won't come in as a highly touted prospect, he believes that he's in a scheme that will maximize his potential.

"The defense is my style of defense. It's a blitz defense. They allow their safeties to get involved in a lot of the game and make the plays," Coleman said. "I'm excited because the defense is exactly what I'm looking for. It's going to allow me to make a lot of plays and help contribute to this team any way I can."

The only question now is whether Coleman's heart and talent will continue to make up for his lack of size at the highest level of competition.

-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 1:50 p.m., April 26

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