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Back from the Islands, Coleman Hopes for a Fast Start


Coleman defends the pass against Lee Evans

Just a couple of weeks prior to camp, Erik Coleman decided it was time to get out of the country. He visited the Bahamas, but this wasn't an island hopping trip for the fourth-year safety.

"I went down to the Bahamas, D'Brickashaw [Ferguson] and I," he said. "My buddy Devard Darling, a receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, runs a football camp down there for the kids. D'Brickashaw and I went down there and helped out."

A native of Spokane, Washington, Coleman had been to the beautiful archipelago in the Atlantic once before. His mission this time was to help teach the game of American football to the Bahamian children.

"I would say there were about 200 kids there. They are trying to get football in the schools," he said. "They don't have football in the schools, so it's kind of rough. You have a football camp here and all the kids know how to play football. You have to start from step one with those kids. It's good Devard is trying to bring football down there. It's very important; it sometimes keeps kids out of trouble."

Growing up in a single parent household, Coleman was a star high school player at Lewis and Clark High before earning a scholarship to Washington State. It was there where he met Darling, a Nassau, Bahamas native. Both men are entering their fourth professional seasons and they pushed themselves daily on the sand before mentoring the children.

"I was up early in the Bahamas," Coleman said. "It was like 6:00 a.m. and it was before the sun came up when I would begin training on the beach with Devard. We were doing a lot of sprints and agility work. It is hard running in that sand. Your legs get tired because you have to work extra hard. It was good conditioning."

Last season, Coleman started 13 games for the Jets and registered 93 tackles and one interception. A regular in the defensive backfield, he has started 45 of 48 pro games he has appeared in. The 5'10", 200-pounder worked on his speed not only in the Bahamas but back in Washington state where he regularly got together with other NFL players.

"I really focused on explosiveness," he said following a recent practice. "I am trying to be explosive at the point of attack. I worked on my overall speed. There are a lot of things a player could work on and I tried to touch on all of them."

One of the most complete safeties to have ever laced them up resides in Philadelphia and Coleman and the Jets will see him two times this season. Brian Dawkins, a six-time Pro Bowl performer for the Eagles, is one player Coleman has seen a lot of tape on.

"I watch a lot of film on myself, but I watch other players like Brian Dawkins. He is one of my favorite players," said Coleman. "He is a very smart player, very intense and very aggressive. What better player to watch than Brian Dawkins, a guy who has been doing it well for a long time."

Indeed Dawkins is the model of consistency. Since 1996, he is the only NFL player to have recorded at least 25 interceptions and at least 25 forced fumbles. A year ago, Coleman's safety partner, Kerry Rhodes, registered four interceptions and three forced fumbles.

"It is always good to have somebody back there that you are comfortable with," said Rhodes of Coleman. "He knows what I'm thinking and I know what he's thinking, and we know that we are going to do the right. It's definitely comfortable."

Now in his second year in the Eric Mangini defensive system, Coleman said he has a better grasp of the defense. But keeping it simple and flying to the ball will still be the key for him whether that pertains to coming down in the box and cracking a running back or picking up a tight end in coverage.

"I have the same approach. Go out there and work hard, do my assignments, communicate and play the defense and then the plays will come," he said. "If I do that, I will be successful and we will be successful as a team."

That sure doesn't sound like a totally foreign idea.

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