If Will Coleman had made another choice, his college career would be over by now.
Coming out of Tyler (Texas) Junior College in 2014, Coleman committed to Mississippi State only to learn that the he had been ruled academically ineligible just before the season started that year.
The ruling meant that Coleman would have to spend an entire year just practicing with the Bulldogs before he’d be able to play in an actual game.
Had Coleman chosen one of his other scholarship offers such as Arizona State or Kentucky, he would have been eligible immediately.
“I’m so glad I made this decision,” Coleman said. “That whole year I was kind of mad to be sitting out just for my love of the game. But as I got older and more mature, I saw that was the best situation for me to come here. That first year we had that awesome season but I was able to be around the guys, see their routines and how they carried themselves. I’m glad I came here.”
The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder tried to use that extra year to improve his game both mentally and physically so he would be ready when his time finally came.
Coleman took the field in all 13 games for MSU as a junior this past fall making 15 tackles, 2.5 for loss, one pass deflection and two quarterback hurries.
“That whole year off learning the playbook, getting bigger and stronger is all coming together,” Coleman said. “All of that was worth it and the progress showed from all that hard work.”
Coleman served as a back-up defensive end during his initial season in Starkville but knew he was providing a valuable need for the team.
“I would call myself a role player,” Coleman said. “I knew what I was and what I was asked to do. I took pride in that. I knew I wasn’t a starter so I took pride in whenever I could go relieve Ryan (Brown) or A.J. (Jefferson) and did the best I could to show the coaches that I could be trusted.”
Coleman did not begin playing defensive end until his senior year of high school and has spent the last five years trying to improve each season. He went from making 18 tackles and a sack as a freshman at Tyler Junior College to 66 stops, eight for loss and four sacks as a sophomore earning second team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
But once he arrived in the Southeastern Conference, he found out there was a lot larger learning curve still left to conquer.
“Guys here on the practice squad are better than most of the guys in junior college,” Coleman said. “It’s just the level of talent, physicality, speed of the game, the alignments and assignments. The schemes here are a lot more complex than in junior college.”
Coleman enters the spring battling with fellow junior college transfer Johnathan Calvin to replace Brown as a full-time starter under new defensive line coach Brian Baker.