While Erik Coleman may have majored in communications at Washington State, his gridiron education didn't begin until after he was chosen by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
"I was very excited to be drafted, and to know that I was going to New York; it was scary but very exciting all at the same time," Coleman said. "One of the best things about being drafted by the Jets at that time was that there was so much veteran leadership in that locker room. There was Wayne Chrebet, John Abraham, Shaun Ellis. Chad Pennington was also instrumental. Curtis Martin taught me a lot of lessons about how to carry myself on and off the field.
"You talk about being 21 years old; you come into the locker room with men with families, it was no longer a game in that sense. It was real. There were real things on the line. And the amount of knowledge that you had to attain and then apply on the fly was something that was very surprising to me. I didn't realize how much studying and communication went into playing at the NFL level."
Starting as a rookie at free safety from the season opener, Coleman caught on fast. He also caught what would be a career-high four interceptions. Following four seasons with the Jets, totaling seven of his 11 career interceptions, he played three years with the Atlanta Falcons and two with the Detroit Lions.
"What makes me most proud of my career was obviously making it to the NFL, but the longevity that I had," Coleman said. "Playing nine years, I think that I was definitely blessed to be able to play as long as I did and at the high level that I was able to play. I feel that I left a good impression on the people who I met. I made a lot of great relationships. Football has always been great to me and it continues to bless me after the game."
In 2014, Coleman, two years retired from the game, became an on-air analyst for SportsNet New York.
"At that time in my life I was kind of bitter towards the game of football. It was a tough transition for me from playing to moving on after I was done. I think that every player thinks that they want to end on their own terms, that they have another year to play and I was one of those players," Coleman said.
"When I got that opportunity, it kind of refreshed my love for the game. I was with Sportsnet New York for four years and from there I went on to call college football games for the Pac-12 network, CBS Sportsnet, and I host a show for the Jets on CBS New York with Steve Overmyer. I also work as a co-host on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Sunday Morning Kickoff, with Jeff Rickard. And I am on Jets 360. I love talking about the game of football."
He may love talking about the game, but the beginning of Coleman's broadcasting career was difficult in the sense that he was now talking about men who are in the same shoes he wore not that long ago.
"Critiquing players was something that was particularly hard for me, but I'm not critiquing them personally, I'm critiquing their play," Coleman said. "I feel confident walking in the locker room and looking any player that I've talked about in the eye because the way I break the film down is similar to how they're getting talked about in the film room. I'm not going to tell someone that this player is terrible because all players that make it to that level are elite. They're the best of the best."
Playing and analyzing football have served Coleman well. But it takes a backseat to what he really does best – helping people in need.
"I connected with the Guardian Recovery Network www.guardianrecoverynetwork.com to help individuals and their families going through drug and alcohol addiction. I speak to high school kids, families, even individuals going through or who are affected by drug addiction; try to help them with resources. If they're going through struggles at home, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You have choices," Coleman said.
"I grew up in a home where drug and alcohol abuse were prevalent. And sharing my story with people, I think, really opens up their eyes and gives them an opportunity to understand that there are people who care about them.
"As an NFL player, we're given a platform and I struggled for a long time trying to figure out what it is that I was put on this earth to do. I feel like football gave me that platform to help those struggling with addiction and I try to do it any way that I can."
Coleman, who will soon be making his new home in New Jersey with his wife, Sabrina, and their children: Carmela, 10; Castelli, 7; and Enzo, 4; also works as a practice manager at CORE Medical Group www.coremedicalgrp.com in Syosset, NY.
"CORE Medical Group is a hormone replacement therapy clinic that I got involved with while I was playing. I made a great relationship with the president/CEO, Sidney Gordon," Coleman said. "I'm a curious person, so I asked a lot about the business and educated myself as much as I could. And when it was time for me to step away from the game, the opportunity presented itself (in 2014) to open up and run a clinic.
"We specialize in hormone replacement therapy, testosterone therapy. We really want to optimize preventative health. Whether that's through testosterone therapy or whether that is through erectile dysfunction medical weight loss, there are a lot of different things that we do at the clinic and it makes people's lives better.
"It's been a great experience for me. Going into business immediately after football was one of those things that really humbled me. Not that I was an arrogant person, but it taught me the ropes. It taught me a lot about business. It taught me a lot about myself, humility, time management and responsibility. I use a lot of the skill sets and the things that I learned playing the game and apply those to my job. It's really helped me."