As one would expect, Drew Coleman was thrilled to be chosen by the Jets in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
"That was probably the most exciting time ever in my life," he said. "I just had my daughter, and a couple months later I get a chance to get drafted to New York, an organization that just got a brand-new coach, a brand-new GM.
"So, getting a fresh start and coming in with guys who actually drafted you out of a lot of guys that they could have chosen from at that time, I was ecstatic. Just to get drafted, period, that was something I'd always dreamt of, and it came true."
Coleman's dream come true, however, could have easily turned into a nightmare. Shortly after arriving in New York, the TCU cornerback recalls head coach Eric Mangini being upset with him because of, let's say, an enthusiastic answer he gave to a reporter's question.
"I was kind of taken aback. My first or second day there, he kind of like ripped a new one in me because I made a comment," Coleman said. "Someone asked me something about the Super Bowl, and I said, 'Yeah, this team is only a couple of pieces away from making a long run in the playoffs.' Or something like that. And he ripped me. 'This kid's a boneheaded rookie. He doesn't know nothing from nothing. He don't have no idea about the NFL.'
"That was nuts because I figured everybody's goal was to win a Super Bowl. I don't know, for him to get on me for that, yeah, it was kind of crazy. But it was just a learning lesson. It was all good."
The Jets said goodbye to Mangini in 2010, and named Rex Ryan as their new head coach. Like Mangini, it was Ryan's first time holding that position. However…
"It was like night and day. You were actually getting a chance to breath and not walk around on eggshells," Coleman said. "Rex gave you the leeway to be a pro. 'I'm going to let you have a lot of rope, but there's more responsibility that comes with that. So, if you take advantage of having this longer rope to better your career or whatever you want to do, there's consequences that come with that. So, whatever you do, you'd better be successful doing it."
New York found success during Ryan's first two seasons by making it to back-to-back AFC Championship Games.
"Those AFC Championship Games, there was a lot of bonding going on with the secondary we had. We were all beating on one drum even though we had two tremendous future Hall of Fame guys in (Antonio) Cromartie and (Darrelle) Revis," said Coleman, who played nickel and on special teams.
"Even though we knew they were better than us, at another tier, those guys were just as much help, just as much inviting. They challenged us, they challenged themselves, they let us challenge them as far as work ethic. Working after practice, working before practice, working on your craft."
After five seasons with the Jets from 2006-10, Coleman spent his final year in the league with the Jaguars. And ironically, it was in Jacksonville where his position coach in New York, Dennis Thurman, would continue to have an impact on Coleman's professional life and what would be his second career – coaching.
"Jacksonville was trying to run a couple of Rex's defenses," Coleman said. "They said, 'Hey, we really like theses defenses. Can you break it down and explain it to us across the board what they're looking for, what they're trying to take away, the responsibilities?
"And the more I stood up and presented it to the defensive backs and the linebackers and the coaches, I said, 'I kind of like this. I kind of like getting up and presenting, coaching.' So, when that started happening and I was still talking with Dennis Thurman, I was like, 'Yeah, I need to get into coaching. This is exciting.'"
Coleman got his first taste of coaching as a volunteer at his alma mater, TCU, while finishing up work on his degree. He then went on to coach at Blinn College. And two years ago, he joined Dennis Bloomgren's staff at Rice University as an assistant cornerbacks coach – quality control.
What does Coleman enjoy most about coaching?
"Helping and learning. I'm trying to learn something every single day from guys like Mike Bloomgren. I never really learned the front seven, the D-line gap responsibilities, and stuff like that. I've heard it, but I'd never really actually grasped it and took the time to know it. So, that's something that I enjoy now. That's the growth part of me," Coleman said.
"Eventually, if I have to come in sometime and help with the D-line or linebackers or safeties, I've learned enough, I've took enough notes, I've done everything I needed to do to help.
"So, I just continue to learn, continue to motivate these guys. I played one year of corner (at TCU) and I got a shot at the NFL. I got there and I sacrificed so much to try to get there. And I just let them now, 'Hey, it's possible. All these statistics about how rare it is to get there, man, you can get there. You've got that opportunity. You've just to keep working, keep working, keep working.'"