The late passing game guru Bill Walsh once said that he could tell whether a quarterback had a good game by looking only at his feet. There’s a lesson to be learned there, and it’s not lost on B.J. Coleman.
Since the new year began, Coleman, the former Chattanooga quarterback who left numerous schools records in his wake despite an injury-plagued senior year, has been working with Sam Morris, an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist based in Hattiesburg, Miss. Under the tutelage of Morris, mornings are devoted to weight training. Afternoons are set aside for position-specific training, and that’s where footwork comes in.
“I’ve already taken over 1,000 drops in a week,” Coleman said. “It’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to ingrain them into your head, and your muscles, so you can play. If you’re not thinking about it, you’re that much better.”
Coleman, who last month received a long-hoped-for invitation to February’s NFL Scouting Combine, knows what the coaches and scouts gathered there want to see. Arm strength is a given, but footwork is important, too.
“Footwork is absolutely a very significant part of the game,” Coleman said. “Your feet take you to your throw. If you’re polished with your feet, you become more accurate, more on time with the football, and you give your receiver more time to do something with it after the catch. Guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, when they put the football in their receivers’ hands, they have a chance to do something with it.”
Coleman is hoping to do something with the numerous chances he’s being given to showcase his skills. The NFL Combine is one. Another is the East-West Shrine game, to which he received an invitation this week. After that game, scheduled for Jan. 21 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., Coleman will head to the Feb. 4 Players All-Star Classic at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark.
Clearly, the 6-5, 225-pound Coleman had done enough in his previous two seasons at UTC to demonstrate NFL potential. His senior season wasn’t a bust, but it didn’t go the way Coleman had hoped. A shoulder injury cost him four games and tamped down his statistical contributions — 1,527 yards and nine touchdowns.
Before the season, UTC head coach Russ Huesman was concerned that if Coleman didn’t duplicate his sophomore and junior year production, it could affect his NFL opportunity.
“He’s in Chattanooga,” Huesman said last July. “He better have an excellent year. If he has an average year at Chattanooga, on this level (FCS), I don’t know what’s going to happen. So many doors will open for him to prove that he can play in the NFL based on the type of year he has. If he doesn’t have a good year, those doors aren’t going to open and it’s going to be an uphill battle for him. He knows that. We’ve talked about these things.”
Fortunately for Coleman, the injury he suffered in an Oct. 8 game at Georgia Southern wasn’t enough to make NFL scouts forget his name.
“I hated the way things went down my senior year,” said Coleman, who graduated in December. “But everything happens for a reason. (The injury) gave (redshirt freshman quarterback) Terrell Robinson an opportunity to show what he could do. It made some other guys step up.
“But to still be able to follow a dream, that’s been huge for me. I’m really enjoying the process. It’s business. You’ve got to go in to work every day and give it everything you’ve got.”
It’s a given that Coleman will work hard — “He helped establish a work ethic here that I dare say a lot of FCS schools don’t have,” UTC offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said — but he’s made good decisions, too. His agent is Bus Cook, who handles contract negotiations, for, among many others, Brett Favre, Jay Cutler and Cam Newton.
“Bus has been great,” Coleman said. “He’s a down-to-earth kind of guy who wears cowboy boots and jeans. He tracked me early on after my senior year, and when I had a chance to finally meet him, we hit it off great. I really feel like I’m in good hands.”