From undrafted to a New England Patriot playing in the AFC Championship, former Vol defensive back Justin Coleman deserves respect for his journey.
Coleman’s career at Tennessee was not a storied one, but a solid one nonetheless. The defensive back played in 49 games and started 38 of those contests. Although he was a player that never missed a game, Coleman received his share of criticism for his on-field performances during his first three seasons in Knoxville. After only one interception in three seasons, a move to the nickel position in his senior year proved to be beneficial as he finished the season tied for fourth in the SEC with four interceptions.
That season earned him a trip to the 2015 East-West Shrine Game, and most importantly, the 2015 NFL Draft. Going into the draft, few thought Coleman would hear his name called. However, after posting one of the most impressive performances in the combine of any DB, the narrative changed. Finishing near the top in almost every category, Coleman was projected to potentially go in the fifth round. Sadly for Coleman, that didn’t happen.
The defensive back went undrafted, but got an opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings. After his combine performance, it seemed like Coleman had a good chance to make the roster with the Vikings for a role with the special teams. Once again, that didn’t happen.
On August 30, a period of 11 days saw Coleman released by the Vikings, signed and then released by New England, signed to Seattle’s practice squad, and a few days later, picked back up by the New England Patriots for the 53-man roster.
For the time being, it looks like Coleman has found a home. He played ten regular season games with two starts, and tallied 21 tackles and five passes defended.
In his playoff debut, Coleman contributed three tackles and one pass defended in the Patriots winning effort against the Kansas City Chiefs 27 to 20. Then on Sunday, we all know what happened.
The Patriots met Volunteer quarterback legend Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship. In a game where all of the attention was going to Manning, Coleman saw the support of a few former teammates, and had a solid game himself.
Jcole out there making some big plays already! I don’t hear anyone saying he can’t cover anymore! Keep balling my boy @JustinColeman27
— El Trevo (@RockyTopMonster) January 24, 2016
I see ya @JustinColeman27 !!!
— General Bynum (@Tenn_Kenn) January 24, 2016
As we all predicted last year, Justin Coleman with the pass break-up against Peyton Manning.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) January 24, 2016
The Broncos won the game, but Coleman finished with four tackles and a few passes defended against Peyton Manning in an AFC Championship game.
Coleman went from a defensive back at the University of Tennessee that struggled in coverage, to not getting drafted, to getting cut, to playing in one of the biggest games in football. It’s safe to say Coleman faced a lot of adversity to get to his position, and deserves a tremendous amount of respect for it.