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Guys Worth Cheering For: Lanier Coleman

8/8/2013
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

CORTLAND, N.Y. – Lanier Coleman thought a football career had passed him by, but he couldn’t escape the questions. Working as a strength and conditioning coach at UC Berkeley, the 6-foot-4, 322-pound trainer was asked all the time:

“Why don’t you still play? You look great.”

The Jets defensive tackle thought his football career was over. After coming out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2009, he had a tryout with the Vikings. He wasn’t picked, and he got involved in training, and the football aspirations faded as he moved to a few different schools, climbing the professional ladder.

“I guess you could say it was like a void I had to fill through strength and conditioning,” Coleman said.

This year, one of his colleagues encouraged Coleman to relaunch his football career and suggested he call Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who Coleman had met during the tryout in Minnesota. Coleman was reluctant.

“I would just be another guy calling him,” Coleman said.

He did it anyway. Dunbar picked up the phone, and Coleman reintroduced himself. “Hey Lanier!” Dunbar roared.

Coleman was granted time off to attend the rookie minicamp as a tryout, and then had to quit his job to accept the invitation to training camp in Cortland. With his future on the line, Coleman realizes a roster spot is a long shot.

“It’s been very difficult,” Coleman said. “Just getting back in the game after three years, trying to shake off the rust.”

Coleman knows firsthand that being fit is completely different from being in football shape.

“The physical part is there, the mental part came along pretty quickly,” Coleman said. “But there is some football IQ things I have to pick up on: engagement blocks, moving my feet off blocks and stuff like that. It’s not just the stuff you see on YouTube, guys running through blocks, making tackles.”

It’s been work, and he’s been pushing through it using all the methods he learned as a trainer.

“It’s really been a struggle but one that I’m grateful to have.”