Antonio Coleman can’t be held back, no matter what's thrown at him.
Auburn's All SEC Defensive End Antonio Coleman was not picked in the 2010 NFL Draft. It was mind boggling that he was not drafted. He finished his career ranked as the number one pass rusher, in America’s premier football conference. Phllip Marshall of Auburn Undercover.com said he, "is one of the better defensive players I’ve seen in recent years." Why this happened no one knows. But by the end of the draft, no fewer than a dozen NFL teams were vying for the services of the 260-pound defensive end. After Coleman weighed his options, he decided to sign a free agent contract with the Bills, which will give him the opportunity to play in a 3-4 defense.
Some expected Coleman to leave college early and enter the NFL Draft after his junior season. Not many would have blamed him either. After all there was a new coaching staff coming into Auburn and some of his peers had decided it was time to move on. Most prognosticators thought he would probably go that route too.
If he declared for the draft, he was projected to be a second round pick. Millions of dollars possibly hung in the balance. Auburn fans (including thousands of teenagers) waited to see what he would do. However, after sitting down with new head coach Gene Chizik, he decided to come back, get his degree and try to help Auburn turn things around. He did just that. He helped lead Auburn to an 8-5 season, an Outback Bowl victory, and completed his degree in criminology. Oh, and he was selected as an All-SEC Defensive End for the second time.
But that's not why he is a role model. He is a role model because like most leaders, he was not willing to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. In addition, he is a role model for two other reasons: keeping his word to play his last year - helping bring back the winning attitude at his alma mater, and for showing the youth of America that some of the most important things in life are working hard, keeping your word, and finishing the job.
You would think that sitting by the phone for three days, waiting to hear from an NFL team, only to be disappointed when the call does not come, might have brought him a little regret for not coming out early in 2009. Not Antonio. His quote on the situation was: "Stay in school. Nothing's guaranteed, but if you work hard, keep at it, you'll get the opportunity like I got."
He sounds like a man that not only talks the Auburn Creed, but walks it as well. He believes in "hard work, honesty, education, and Auburn." Now his plans are to report to Buffalo on May 6th.
Antonio has made both the Coleman family and the Auburn family proud. Some say that athletes are not role models. I don’t know, maybe a lot of times that’s true. But I do know this ... Antonio Coleman is a role model. I also know that I’ll forever be grateful, that he is Auburn man.