Tevin Coleman, signed by the Jets as an unrestricted free agent last week, brings veteran experience and familiarity with the new offense to the running backs room. Here are five things you may not know about the newest addition to the offense of Head Coach Robert Saleh's and coordinator Mike LaFleur.
Coleman's parents, Wister and Adlevia, emigrated to the U.S. from Liberia, settling in the Chicago area. Tevin, born on April 16, 1993, was 10 weeks premature and weighed only 3 pounds at birth. Doctors were wary of the child surviving and gave him only a 20 percent chance, but they believed Tevin's birth was a miracle and gave him the nickname 'Rock.' Extra note: He is a descendant of the American-born former president of Liberia, William David Coleman.
Football and Track, Oh My
At Oak Park (IL) High School, Coleman was a star on the gridiron and on the running track.
Forget the triple-threat moniker because Coleman played five, yes, five different positions in high school -- running back, wide receiver, cornerback, punt and kick returner (OK, maybe that's not two separate positions!). In his senior year, he rushed for 949 yards on 83 carries with 13 TDs, and also had 16 receptions for 345 yards and 5 TDs.
For the track & field team, he ran sprints and performed in the long jump. At the 2011 Illinois state championships, Coleman was fourth in the 100 meters at 10.86; and placed second in the long jump with a distance of 7.6 meters (24.9 feet). In another meet, he finished first in the long jump (6.88 meters or 22.57 feet) and was second in the 100 at 10.8 seconds.
With scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Minnesota and Michigan State, Coleman instead chose the college life of a Hoosier.
He saw limited action as a freshman, but had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2013 until an ankle injury ended his run with three games to play. It was especially frustrating because he had amassed 958 yards and 12 TDs and would not be able to surpass 1,000 yards.
"I think about it a lot," Coleman told IndyStar.com. "I really was hurt that I couldn't get [1,000 yards], but that's just something I'm gonna do this year. It's a goal for me to do it."
Not only did he reach 1,000 yards as a junior, he blew past the benchmark collecting 2,036 yards (a single-season school record) and 15 TDs. He opened the season with a 247-yard game against Indiana State; went for 307 yards against Rutgers (the second-highest total in Indiana history); 228 yards against Ohio State. Along with Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), Coleman was named one of the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award. He decided to skip his senior season and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft.
See the Best Photos of the Former 49ers Running Back and Jets Free Agency Signing
Atlanta to San Francisco
Coleman (who will turn 28 next month) was Atlanta's third-round draft pick (No. 73 overall) and proved his versatility out of the backfield. He notched career highs of 800 yards rushing and 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2018, then left for the West Coast when he signed a two-year deal with the 49ers.
In 2019, he was forced out of the 49ers' running backs committee (which included Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida) with an ankle injury, playing in 14 games as San Francisco advanced to the Super Bowl. Still, he managed to gain 544 yards rushing with 6 TDs, and added 21 receptions for 180 yards and 1 TD.
The injury bug took a big bite out of his 2020 season. Coincidentally, Coleman sustained a sprained knee in the 49ers' game at the Jets in Week 2. After returning to the field, he later missed more than three games, playing in only 8 games (53 yards on 28 carries without a TD).
Overall, Coleman had at least 115 carries and 500 rushing yards in four straight seasons before 2020. In his career he has 2,937 rushing yards on 693 carries with 24 TDs, plus 117 career receptions for 1,224 yards and 12 TDs.
A Veteran in the RBs Room
In addition to his six seasons in the NFL, Coleman (5-11, 206) brings to the Jets a comfortable familiarity with HC Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Though he was signed to a one-year deal, his versatility out of the backfield, running and catching, appears to be a perfect fit for the Jets' new offensive scheme. The link between Coleman and LaFleur dates to their days with the Falcons, where LaFleur served as an offensive assistant. The coaches know him and vice versa.
That experience with the coaching staff means that Coleman is likely to serve as an example and mentor to the Jets' current roster of running backs -- Josh Adams, La'Mical Perrine and Ty Johnson. His signing makes him the first former 49ers player to join Saleh on the East Coast.