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Erik Coleman discusses journey to NFL stardom, formative years at Washington State

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In a recent interview with Rich Salgado on Big Daddy & Friends, retired NFL safety and current broadcaster Erik Coleman discussed what inspired him to a strong nine-year playing career at the highest level of pro football and the unique path he took to get there.

Coleman explained how he had his heart set on being a Marine and then joining the FBI prior to receiving college scholarship offers, but the opportunity he got to play at Washington State proved pivotal in shaping his future.

Erik Coleman was inspired by Washington State NFL Draft picks

As his time with the Cougars wore on, Coleman saw several of his former teammates from the defensive backfield go to the pros. Lamont Thompson still leads the Pac-12 in career interceptions with 24, and was drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2002. Marcus Trufant was the 11th overall pick in the next year’s draft.

All of this moved Coleman to consider an NFL future more seriously.

“I looked at [Thompson]…and said, ‘He’s great, but I’m not that far behind him,” Coleman explained. “I looked at my roommate Hamza Abdullah and we were like, ‘Man, if we want to pro we gotta start working hard…not hanging out as much…staying after practice trying to get better.”

That’s precisely what Coleman did in advance of his senior season with Washington State. It paid massive dividends, too. No longer playing in the shadow of Thompson and Trufant, Coleman put together a magnificent 2003 campaign, racking up seven interceptions as a ball-hawking safety to land on NFL scouts’ radars.

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Erik Coleman earned NFL shot, and never looked back

Collegiate production doesn’t necessarily equate to boosted draft stock in all cases. It took a while to hear his name called during the 2004 NFL Draft, but eventually, the New York Jets made the call, and everything wound up working out for the best.

“I was fortunate enough to get drafted in the fifth round to the Jets in a great situation, and that’s where my career kicked off…it was a beautiful thing,” Coleman said.

In his maiden NFL season, Coleman started all 16 games at safety, logging 100 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, 12 passes defensed and four interceptions. He was a big contributor for coach Herm Edwards’ team, which won a playoff game that year before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17 in overtime during the Divisional Round.

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