Payments rookie WR Keon Coleman far more than the goofball we see on viral movies

by Christina S. Brown
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Michigan State receivers coach Courtney Hawkins was upset with Keon Coleman.

The coach informed his No. 1 receiver to take it simple. The Spartans’ season hadn’t began but, and Coleman had been one of many hardest employees throughout offseason practices. He wanted to relaxation and get well. 

However Coleman did not take heed to Hawkins’ directions. As a substitute, he joined a gaggle of MSU receivers and defensive backs to work out on their off day, going one-on-one in drills with a QB throwing. So whereas Coleman was imagined to relaxation, he could not go up slightly competitors. 

Possibly that is as a result of these one-on-one classes supplied one other alternative to compete towards Charles Brantley, the workforce’s high nook. And whereas Coleman is not one to instigate trash discuss, he’ll be sure that to close somebody up. 

“All it takes is to poke the bear one time and it is on,” Hawkins mentioned of Coleman. “That is the form of competitor he’s. All it takes is one DB to say one phrase. … He is tremendous aggressive, man.”

Coleman’s fierce aggressive spirit landed him at Michigan State in 2021, then at Florida State within the switch portal final yr — and now with the Buffalo Payments, who picked him No. 33 general within the 2024 NFL Draft. 

His cutthroat mentality may additionally shock those that have seen the viral movies of Coleman after the draft. They’re humorous clips of him speaking about his Macy’s coat, a steal at $80, or touring the Payments’ facility and setting a file with three “imaginary touchdowns.” And let’s not overlook Coleman’s evaluation of his golf sport.

“I am Tiger Want He May. I am not Tiger Woods,” he mentioned on the NFL Mix to a room of Payments staffers, together with GM Brandon Beane, coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. 

However in that very same assembly, Coleman additionally demonstrated his knowledge and maturity.

“I want I may putt and do all that. Them boys on the market capturing five-under, I ain’t doing all that. It takes me 5 putts to get it in. It is managed chaos. You are pissed off, however you may’t get mad,” he mentioned. “It forces me to remain calm and simply swing.”

Keon is unapologetically Keon. He at all times has been.

And there are such a lot of sides to him that may shock you.

After Coleman completed his introductory go to on the Payments’ facility, he returned to his resort along with his mom, Ravin Savoy. Coleman started to cry. It had been nearly 24 hours since Buffalo drafted him. Actuality was setting in.

“I am actually within the NFL, mama,” he mentioned. “I am actually an NFL participant.”

“Sure you might be,” Savoy mentioned. “You labored onerous for this.”

He did. He may need been a greater basketball prospect popping out of highschool, however his athleticism, depth and work ethic fueled his rise to the NFL.

“He do not let unfastened in that capability typically,” Savoy mentioned. “I knew that was large. And he was simply full of a lot emotion. So, I let him have his moments. And I stand sturdy.”

Keon grew up in Opelousas, Louisiana with a youthful sister and three older brothers. And earlier than he discovered soccer and basketball, he was a stud in baseball. His mother used to supply him Oreo McFlurries from McDonald’s or fried Oreos at Mama’s Fried Rooster, a spot Savoy’s buddies owned. And positive sufficient, Coleman would hit a homer to earn his reward. He was at Mama’s, specifically, so typically that, as he received older, he’d go behind the counter to have the cooks put together his order simply proper.

In his early AAU basketball days, Coleman would trip the bus for hours from Opelousas to video games. To go the time, the 15-year-old would suck his thumb and twirl his hair till he fell asleep. 

“The children would joke at him on a regular basis like, ‘Fifteen — sucking your thumb,'” mentioned Randy Livingston, Coleman’s former basketball coach, longtime buddy and mentor. “However he simply was an genuine man. He did not care both. He was simply gonna be himself regardless.” 

It did not take lengthy for Livingston to know that Coleman is a particular particular person. It took solely seconds to know he was a particular athlete. One in all Livingston’s first impressions was watching younger Keon step into the gymnasium and throw down an Eastbay dunk — in slide sandals. 

He was extremely recruited to play soccer and basketball, and he picked Michigan State largely as a result of it was one among solely two colleges that supplied him the chance to play each sports activities.

However Coleman could not transfer over to basketball till after soccer ended, and it is not simple to affix an elite Division I basketball workforce midseason. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound guard received simply 11 minutes of enjoying time as a freshman throughout the 2021-22 season. He rejoined the workforce briefly in 2022-23 however did not get right into a sport. 

In the end, basketball journey was merely an excessive amount of, and it was clear he could not play each sports activities. Coleman determined to concentrate on soccer. He made that selection in session with legendary Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, who informed Livingston he thought the Spartans may have made a Ultimate 4 with Keon on the ground.

“I really like Keon and have such nice admiration for him, however I additionally need what’s greatest for him and his future,” Izzo mentioned on the time of the choice. “I’m glad we agreed that this was the perfect plan of motion shifting ahead.”

Coleman at all times stayed near the MSU basketball program and even returned to East Lansing in March for Senior Night time. He stood courtside and wore the jersey of his buddy, Steven Izzo, who was one of many gamers being acknowledged that night time.

“He is in my game-worn jersey and it is a tight match,” Izzo mentioned. “He regarded ripped, and I keep in mind joking round with him about how the jersey match very cosy and made me look very small. 

“However nothing was ever too large for him. Nothing is ever too small for him. He would give the shirt off his again for any a kind of guys on his workforce. In order that’s actually the good half about him is simply how caring he was.”

Keon Coleman made his faculty basketball debut on Jan. 29, 2022, scoring a bucket late in a blowout of Michigan. (Photograph by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Photos)

On the time he left basketball, Coleman merely thought he had a greater likelihood at a professional profession as a soccer participant. In spite of everything, there are extra NFL gamers than NBA gamers. Coleman was able to put every thing into pursuing a soccer profession.

“I believe it was simply strictly a numbers sport. After which Keon received higher at soccer,” Livingston mentioned. “He wanted to refine his abilities, which he did. And I simply thought it was a pure transformation.”

That transformation was most dramatic beneath the tutelage of Hawkins, a former nine-year NFL receiver. When Coleman arrived at Michigan State, he principally ran the 2 easiest routes: fast screens and go-routes. Hawkins and Coleman labored tirelessly to broaden the receiver’s abilities. It will have been simple for Coleman to easily apply what got here naturally to him — battling for 50-50 catches, significantly within the purple zone — however he would not accept merely being a giant physique. 

That is how he made a large leap from his freshman yr (seven catches, 50 yards, one landing) to his sophomore yr, when he had 58 catches, 798 yards and 7 touchdowns.

“He needs to be a technician relating to route-running,” Hawkins mentioned. “And that is one thing I actually preferred about him and actually appreciated about him. He needs to develop into a pure route-runner and never simply rely on being large and every thing’s concerning the contested catch. He labored onerous on being environment friendly on the high of routes and eliminating steps and having the ability to punch and get in and get out.”

Coleman’s route-running has been a large work in progress. Nevertheless it demonstrates his coachability, which is why all of his coaches rave about him. And he has had a reasonably large group of coaches contemplating how he transferred from Michigan State to Florida State for his ultimate faculty season. Coleman’s large 2022 with the Spartans drew curiosity from a handful of colleges and, given the potential NIL cash, he deeply explored all his choices. 

“It was a enterprise determination,” Savoy mentioned. “However I might say East Lansing is residence.” 

Coleman’s ultimate determination got here right down to Ole Miss and FSU, and on his visits to each colleges, he confirmed discerning judgment. 

At about midnight throughout every go to, he scheduled throwing classes with every quarterback, Ole Miss’ Jaxson Dart and FSU’s Jordan Travis. Whereas most different visiting gamers would spend that night time partying, Coleman spent the wee hours practising. And he went again to Livingston, who attended these visits alongside him, with a scouting report about every signal-caller. 

In a method, it was a check — for the quarterbacks.

“He mentioned, ‘I preferred Jaxson. Thought he throws a great ball,'” Livingston mentioned. “‘However Travis throws a great ball on the run and within the pocket. After which we had [former FSU receiver] Johnny [Wilson] on the opposite facet. We had a great operating again. So it was this excellent state of affairs for me.’ 

“So rigorously thought out. It wasn’t like, ‘OK, let’s go the place essentially the most NIL cash was.'” 

Coleman is aware of himself. He knew {that a} quarterback like Travis — who’s extra inventive out of construction (like Payments quarterback Josh Allen) — was a great match for his ability set as a wideout.

That wasn’t the one fascinating second from these visits.

Livingston sat in on Coleman’s conferences with the FSU and Ole Miss teaching staffs. And whereas Livingston knew Coleman had developed since highschool, he did not understand simply how a lot.

“[With the Seminoles staff,] we watched the Florida State-LSU sport when it was within the Superdome and so they went over each offensive snap. And Keon knew what was happening from the very starting,” Livingston mentioned. “I used to be blown away on the movie session. Once I say I used to be blown away, Keon knew each place. He knew the X and the Y. He knew the movement calls.”

Coleman is such a movie junkie that he’d discovered a big portion of FSU’s playbook earlier than really seeing it. And thru these conferences and throwing classes, Coleman discovered his technique to Tallahassee, the place he helped lead the Seminoles to an undefeated common season. 

Maybe fittingly, FSU opened final season towards LSU. His mom eliminated herself from social media prematurely of the opener after rising uninterested in the pregame trash discuss. However possibly she ought to’ve stayed on-line for yet one more day.

Coleman had the perfect sport of his profession: 9 catches, 122 yards and three touchdowns. He scored his first landing on the primary catch of his FSU profession, a 40-yard home name.

It is value noting that LSU, successfully his hometown college, did not recruit Coleman in highschool. However that LSU-FSU movie was, little question, pivotal in shaping his scouting report as a professional. Coleman completed his season with Florida State with 50 catches for 658 yards and 11 touchdowns. He additionally gained “You Acquired Moss’d” for an insane one-handed catch towards Syracuse that has gone viral a number of instances, together with on opening night time of the draft.

On that April night time in Detroit, the Payments seemingly would have taken Coleman at No. 32, the ultimate first-round slot, however Buffalo traded again one spot and received the receiver at thirty third general. Possibly Coleman’s 40-yard sprint on the NFL Mix — a mediocre 4.61 seconds — lowered his draft inventory. And possibly the Payments used that to their benefit.

“I am glad he ran that,” Buffalo GM Beane mentioned of the 40 time from his suite on the mix (as captured in a behind-the-scenes video). “It’s going to assist to get him.”

Coleman has the uncommon means to bend, an expression typically used for pass-rushers, and Beane mentioned that he additionally has redirection abilities corresponding to a a lot smaller receiver. That allowed Coleman to play each on the perimeter (as an X receiver) and within the slot in faculty. 

With the Payments buying and selling Stefon Diggs this offseason, Beane informed reporters that he expects Coleman to play on the X spot. That is the place they’re going to throw him into the competitors towards Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mack Hollins.

Did the Payments make the precise determination shifting on from Stefon Diggs?

Did the Bills make the right decision moving on from Stefon Diggs?

Maybe all’s nicely that ends nicely. As a result of whereas he may not be within the NBA — as Livingston thought he would possibly sometime be — and he was not technically a first-round choose — as Coleman little question wished to be — the receiver appears to have landed in a great offense for his ability set. Beane has a knack for locating gamers who fill a necessity on Buffalo’s depth chart and who’ve the potential to make a right away affect. 

“We’ll be relying on him early in his position,” Beane informed reporters throughout the draft. “It is no secret we would have liked so as to add a man like him to fill this X-role that is vacant.”

Beane did not point out Diggs, however he would possibly as nicely have. Each Diggs and Gabe Davis departed this offseason, leaving the Payments sorely missing within the receiver room. Coleman will work towards getting a significant share of the 241 targets that went to them final season.

He’ll work to develop into Allen’s favourite goal each inside and outdoors the construction of the Buffalo offense. The rookie receiver will battle for bounce balls, he’ll discover holes in zone protection, and he’ll work his method towards Allen when the QB will get inventive on the transfer. That’ll all require rapport, and so they’re already planning to work out this offseason at Allen’s place in Wyoming. 

Coleman’s path to the No. 1 spot begins there.

“He is prepared for it,” mentioned Ron Dugans, Coleman’s receivers coach at FSU. “That is what he needs. He needs to be good in that place. He isn’t afraid of it. He is labored his butt off for it. He is aware of he is received some large footwear to fill, and he would not need to go in and attempt to be Stef. 

“He is gotta go and be Keon Coleman. And he is assured in that.”

If there’s one factor it’s best to know by now: Keon is unapologetically Keon.

Previous to becoming a member of FOX Sports activities because the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years protecting the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports activities Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Observe him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.

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