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View from the 'ville
Thursday, May 20, 2010

By Al Myatt

Coleman goes from pigskin to sheepskin

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

In March of 2004, the Atlanta Falcons signed defensive tackle Rod Coleman to a six-year deal worth $28 million. Coleman also got a $10 million signing bonus.

The former East Carolina standout, who recently retired after 10 years in the NFL, wouldn't seem like a guy who would be concerned about the fact that he hadn't gotten his college degree.

"I enjoy working with kids," said Coleman, who has a foundation that helps disadvantaged youth as well as child care centers in Atlanta. "I basically want to help young people go in the right direction. I always knew I wanted to be in that field."

Coleman was majoring in child development and family relations at ECU. He finished playing for the Pirates in 1998.

"I had the opportunity to leave and go play in the NFL but I always promised myself that I was going to go back and get my degree, when I'm done, when my career is finally over," Coleman said. "I stayed in contact with the administration.

"I honestly tried to do it a couple of years back."

The time demands of earning the big bucks in the NFL kept Coleman from keeping his promise to himself.

"It's really hard to do it while you're playing," he said. "But I finally did it. I kind of did everything in reverse. I had the Rod Coleman Foundation, working with underprivileged kids. I was doing stuff in the boys and girls clubs, working with the YMCA and police athletic leagues. You know, kids throughout.

"And I have the Angel Academy, day care center, in Atlanta, going on a few years now. I had all this stuff going. I kind of put the carriage before the horse but I knew I was going to get it right. It was just a last few courses I had to finish up and I got my degree."

Coleman is planning to help with the football program at the new Rocky River High School, which is under construction in the Charlotte area. He is currently residing in Charlotte.

"The way kids are going now, it's just at an alarming rate," Coleman said. "From someone, a former athlete who comes from the inner city of Philadelphia who has seen both sides of the track, I think they'll respect me more and understand that I'm there to help them because I was there and I made it out. I can shine a different light on the kids and on the parents.

"The parents have a major role in the upbringing of a child. They need to understand that they are the ideal role models for their child — not somebody on TV or somebody in a magazine."

Coleman has completed requirements for his degree. That's as big an accomplishment as any sack he ever made — and he made plenty, both at ECU and in the NFL.

"I finished what I started," Coleman said.

Some 'Cole' facts

• Coleman wore No. 57 as a linebacker at ECU. He added about 30 pounds during the course of his NFL career and wore No. 75 as a defensive tackle for the Falcons.

• Coleman got to Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch on his first NFL sack.

• Coleman was born in Vicksburg, MS, but went to Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia, also the alma mater of former North Carolina basketball standout and current Boston Celtic, Rasheed Wallace. Coleman has donated equipment for the weight room at Gratz.

• Coleman had 11 sacks for the Oakland Raiders in 2002, 11.5 for Atlanta in 2004 and 10.5 for the Falcons in 2005.

• Coleman holds all of ECU's sack records, including the most in a game (4 against Wake Forest in 1997), most in a season (15 in 1997) and most in his career (39 from 1995 to 1998).

• Coleman's only touchdown in the NFL came for the Falcons during the 2004 season on a 39-yard interception return in a 35-10 win over his former team, the Raiders.

Huge series with Houston

East Carolina's hopes for a berth in the Conference USA baseball tournament hinge on its home series with Houston starting tonight. If the Pirates can take two of three from the Cougars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then their tickets will be punched for the C-USA Tournament at Houston, May 26-30.

Malcolm Gray of the ECU athletic media relations department figures ECU will finish third in the regular season league race if the Pirates win two of three from the Cougars and Southern Miss wins its series with Memphis. If ECU takes the Houston series and Memphis gets two of three from Southern Miss, then the Pirates are looking at a fourth place finish in C-USA.

The top six of the nine baseball-playing members of C-USA qualify for the conference tournament. The Pirates have dropped out of the national rankings and it's looking like ECU would have to win the C-USA Tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament field.

Pirates coach Billy Godwin has said that Zach Woods (8-3, 4.31 earned run average) will start tonight. Seth Maness (9-3, 4.40) is slated to go for ECU on Friday night. Godwin has not announced Saturday's starter. The situation being what it is, Godwin realizes he may have to use Kevin Brandt in relief before the series finale.

Gray said Houston is expected to go with right-hander Michael Goodnight on Thursday, lefty William Kankel on Friday and right-hander Eric Brooks on Saturday.

The Pirates are 18-16 against right-handed starters this season and 12-7 against lefties. ECU is hitting .326 against right-handers and .316 against left-handers.

Holland welcomes another Sampson

Pirates basketball coach Jeff Lebo has utilized connections in his first two signings.

Versatile guard Tony Smith, a hometown product from Greenville Rose, was Lebo's first recruit. His second signee, Robert Sampson from Bullis School in Potomac, MD, warmed the heart of ECU athletic director Terry Holland.

Sampson's dad, Ralph, was a star for Holland at Virginia and had a lengthy NBA career. Holland said he left the younger Sampson's recruiting to Lebo.

"I was not involved with Robert's recruitment except when he and his parents visited," Holland said. "However, when Coach Lebo told me he was inviting Robert to visit, Ann and I were excited.

"Ralph's decision to attend Virginia was mainly driven by his comfort level with the school, coaches and program. Those same things seemed to be important in Robert's decision to attend ECU."

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Al Myatt Archives

05/20/2010 05:22 PM


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