Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UAlbany Alum Andre Coleman Joins Edmonton Esks In the Canadian Football League

(Andre Coleman during Eskimos rookie training camp at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton. Photograph by: Ryan Jackson)

While most fans are aware of the physical torture and pain football players put their bodies through, the majority are oblivious to the mental anguish and strain they experience when they leave their families behind to pursue their careers.

Andre Coleman is very much a family man, having left his wife Sali and three children — Cameron, 7; Claire, 3; and Keaton, four months — back in California to continue his dream of a career in the game he loves.

“It’s going to be hard,” said Coleman, 25, a defensive tackle signed by San Diego as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and released by the National Football League Chargers last year.

“When I first told my wife about going to Canada, she said she wanted to go. I told her it’s six months and it was probably best not to have to move the entire family, just yet.

“I was kind of depressed knowing that I would, every night, go to sleep without hearing her voice or being able to see her. She was still a little upset, but she understands this is my dream, this is my passion and she’s completely behind me, which I’m totally thankful for, for the support of family.”

Coleman himself did not receive that kind of support as a child from his father, who left the family behind in Buffalo. Coleman, the youngest of four children, was just one when his dad decided to split.

“I never had a relationship with my father. I’ve been anxious to find him — not to build a relationship with him, but to see whether I have other brothers and sisters. His abandoning me at such a young age is not the fault of my brothers and sisters,” said Coleman.

“I’m not sure why he left and I really don’t care. I’m just blessed to have a loving family. My mother was my mother and my dad, and I was blessed to have someone as strong as she was,” he said of Barbara Williams, who still lives in the Buffalo area and just earned a criminal justice degree from Hobart College at the age of 58.

“Even now, I can call her and talk to her about manly things and not be embarrassed.”

Nicole Davis, Coleman’s older sister, also acts as a second mother.

“I can always call her and talk to her as well. You need that positive feedback. If I’m wrong about something, they’ll tell me,” he said.

The six-foot-three, 300-pounder has a strong feeling he’s right about moving north. After three years of limited playing time in San Diego, the University of Albany product — who has a degree in African studies and wants to work on his master’s — knew he was at a crossroads.

“I didn’t want to go through all that again. I felt like my time there was up,” Coleman admitted. “I had my three years there. I felt like I hadn’t played that much (he played in only two games in 2009), so it was time to go elsewhere and experience a different opportunity.”

Edmonton had his Canadian Football League rights and, after a discussion with agent Mark Maren, he chose the Eskimos.

“I had an opportunity to ask Andre, ‘What do you want to do?’ ’’ said Maren. “ ‘There are a couple of NFL teams that want to fly you up for a tryout, or do you want to work and play and be an every-down player for 18 games, get your film and maybe go back down south again?’

“That was Andre’s biggest issue with NFL teams. They liked his athleticism, but they didn’t have enough solid game film on him. We thought this would be a good opportunity for Andre if he can go up, play a year, get his game film and market him back down again.”

“It was a big transition for him to leave the San Diego area, but for his career he needed to make this move,” Maren said of Coleman.

“If you’re coming to the CFL, as far as facilities are concerned, nothing beats Edmonton. Being a pro player in Edmonton rivals the NFL in all those aspects.

“Hopefully, for Andre’s sake, he gets an opportunity to get up to the NFL again. If not, I think Edmonton and Andre will be extremely happy together. He’s even talked about moving his family up there after a year.”

Coleman totalled 110 tackles, 35 for losses, and 14 quarterback sacks in his collegiate career.

“What I bring is speed and quickness, and my ability to put pressure on the quarterback,” said Coleman, who will have to concentrate on performing on the field but will be preoccupied with the separation from his family while off it.

“It’s tough. My four-month old is a wonderful baby. Wonderful. Doesn’t cry much. Has a great disposition. He sits back and observes and has this wonderful head full of hair,” said Coleman, who spends time with his family every day through the Internet and Skype.

“This is building me as a stronger person — my relationship with my wife and making me a stronger father. It’s tough, but I’m going to get through it.”

By Mario Annicchiarico, Canwest News Service

1 comment:

Ruler said...

He is a class act. I wish Andre well in is on the field and off the field endeavors. His mother has done an outstanding job with this young man. I am sure she is proud of him; I know I am, and I never met Andre!!

As a former Albany player from 100 years ago, I can say with pride that I played in the same program as Andre has.

Kick their ass Andre!!!!

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