Coleman defends against the Bears offense
The National Football League Scouting Combine officially came to an end a couple of weeks ago when 55 defensive backs worked out in Indianapolis. Ask Jets cornerback Drew Coleman about his combine experience and he'll give you a surprising answer.
"As far as the combine, I didn't get invited to the combine," he says.
Coleman, a 5'9", 175-pound Texas Christian product, played on a team his final collegiate season that won 11 games and finished 11th in the AP Rankings. But the Hornfrogs' tremendous success didn't help Coleman gain a trip to Indy.
"I felt like I was going to get invited (to the combine) because we had a pretty good team and we had a pretty good year," said Coleman in a recent phone interview with newyorkjets.com. "We finished high in the BCS rankings. I thought that had a lot to do with it, but unfortunately it doesn't."
Coleman actually prepared for the combine in New York with Leon Washington, a running back from Florida State. Little did both men know that they would soon get re-introduced at Weeb Ewbank Hall as professional teammates.
"My agency Sportstars, who operates out of New York, flew me up to New York for like a month and a half. I trained with a bunch of other players – Leon was with us," Coleman said. "We trained for the combine because I was waiting for my invite. When I didn't get invited, I stayed up there working out with Leon. When he left, I stayed up to train an extra week or so."
In the weeks following the combine, colleges across the land showcase their top prospects at their respective pro days. Last year's pro day at TCU was vital for Coleman because it would be the only time he would be showcased in front of pro scouts.
"I think you do everything the same as you would do at the combine," Coleman said of the format. "We had 20-25 teams watching, and we did every drill that they did at the combine. I sat down and talked to a couple of teams which included a couple of tests."
Coleman's best assets are probably his sub 4.4 speed and his quick feet. He didn't disappoint during his workout.
"My shuttle and my vertical really hurt me, but I really ran a good 40," he said of his performance. "I felt like I could have done a better in the jump."
Coleman was interviewed by a few teams while on campus, but he considered them to be information collection sessions. Clubs handed out questionnaires, set up pre-draft interviews, and took down phone numbers.
Then prior to the NFL Draft last April, the Jets hosted approximately 25 prospects at their facility in Hempstead. Coleman described the visit as a feeling out process.
"We toured the facilities. You talk to the position coach, the coordinator, and then you talk to the head coach and the GM," he said. "They kind of ask you what you think of the program and how you feel about the organization. They ask you how you feel about them and vice-versa. They want to see the type of person you really are."
Coleman felt good for most of the interview, but then first-year Jets head coach Eric Mangini stumped him with a late question.
"I didn't think they would draft me because they asked me a question at the end," he recalled. "It was something like, 'If I died today, how would I want to be remembered?' That totally caught me off guard and I had no answer for it."
The speechless Coleman left Long Island and didn't think he had much chance of returning.
"It was a cool experience. Everybody was relaxed. They were asking me some questions, and we were laughing and having a good time," he said. "It went pretty well, but I thought that last question would make their decision."
Fast forward to draft weekend. Coleman knew he wasn't going to be selected on day one but periodically checked the television to see where he his competition was headed. After a restless Saturday night, Coleman was determined to keep himself occupied on day two.
"I kind of just stayed away from the television. I just went to the park with my daughter and kind of chilled and went out to eat. I tried to stay away from the television as much as possible," he said. "I wound up checking in and out to see where all the corners were being taken, but I tried to stay away from it as much as possible."
The Falcons called and told Coleman to keep his lines open but provided no further details. Then the Green & White, who owned the 189th overall selection, gave a call in the sixth round.
"It was just me and my uncle in the room watching the television, and we were jumping back and forth. I tried not to watch it, but the Jets called me and I told my uncle to go back there," Coleman said. "It was like two selections before the Jets picked. Both of us knew, but we were going to keep it from the rest of the family.
"As soon as it was announced, there were like 1,000 cars that pulled up to my house. It turned out to be a big old celebration. It was nice and everybody enjoyed themselves."
Excitement filled the air in Henderson, a small Texas town with a population of about 11,000 people. Like many small towns across America, Henderson is a proud place. Prior to Coleman's entry into the NFL, only one other Henderson native – the late great Joe Delaney – had played at this level.
"I got exhausted from people congratulating me and signing autographs. My house got flooded quick," Coleman said. "I think I left within two-to-three hours and went to my girlfriend's house and went to sleep. It was a good day, but I really didn't get that much sleep Saturday night heading into Sunday."
Almost a year later, Coleman now is an NFL veteran. In his first professional season, he made four starts at cornerback and totaled 20 defensive tackles in addition to a sack and a forced fumble. He also pitched in with six special teams stops. So what advice would Coleman give to an NFL hopeful as the draft approaches?
"The best advice I could give is: Don't get down or discouraged if you get selected late or aren't selected at all," he said. "Everyone has to go in and work. You have to have the right mentality and be ready to work every day. Don't let your draft status pull you in either direction."