Austin Coleman will fly to Seattle next week on the second airplane flight of his life, looking to land an NFL career.
The opportunity to prove he can play pro football – which is all he wanted – is there for him.
“Going into my freshman year at Saint Francis, I didn't have the idea of trying to play pro ball,” Coleman said. “I knew the chances to make it to the next level from there or any small school in general, was very slim. But I had family and coaches encourage me and tell me, 'As long as you've got talent, they'll find you.' ”
After the seven rounds of the NFL Draft concluded Saturday and Coleman was outside his Fort Wayne home throwing a football with his brothers, the NFL found him. The Seattle Seahawks called and offered him a chance to take part in the Seahawks' rookie camp next week.
“All my family and everybody was happy and crying,” Coleman said. “It was a great moment.”
Nothing is promised in the NFL, of course. But the Seahawks are looking for a kick returner and Coleman certainly knows a thing or two about the job.
He set an NAIA record with eight kickoff return touchdowns in his career while also thriving as a wide receiver. He's compact (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) but with great speed, instincts and an ability to find the openings on returns and break tackles after catches.
“I will have to impress them and show them I'm what they're looking for,” Coleman said. “I just have to go out there and work hard to make it to OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamp.”
Coleman, who played high school football for Harding, credits his uncles Rodney Coleman and Eddie Harris with encouraging him to embrace his dream of playing professional football. He was also encouraged by positive feedback in an earlier Pro Day workout at Saint Francis in front of scouts from the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions.
“Once I knew I could make a career out of this, I took that and did everything I could, working on my footwork, my yards after catch,” he said. “I did a lot of foot work and work on catching the ball, punts and kickoffs. You have to be able to catch the ball first, then be able to break a tackle or get up field.”
Coleman said he will continue to work out with Athletes With Purpose (AWP) as he prepares for the next step, his on-site audition, so to speak, with the Seahawks.
“All I wanted was an opportunity to get my foot in the door and I'm going to get that with the Seattle Seahawks,” Coleman said. “Now I need to show them I'm capable of being on their roster and helping them get to the Super Bowl.”