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Watch for Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, July 12, 2004

By Al Myatt

New Falcon well-heeled but well-grounded


Getting back to the East Coast was a high priority for former East Carolina defensive terror Rod Coleman after completing his contractual obligations to the Oakland Raiders.

Coleman got a $10 million signing bonus as part of a 6-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons worth $28.5 million. Agent Pat Dye, Jr., son of former ECU and Auburn coach Pat Dye, handled the negotiations.

"It's great to be back on this side of the country," said Coleman, who was born in Vicksburg, Miss., and played at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia.

Coleman set a school record at ECU with 39 career sacks as an outside linebacker although no one on the Pirates staff of former coach Steve Logan had actually seen Coleman play in person when he was offered a college scholarship.

The brother of an assistant basketball coach at Gratz sent ECU a game tape of Coleman that he got from an opposing program and the ECU coaches saw enough from the grainy footage to realize they were watching a prospect.

There were plenty of opportunities for Coleman's football career to get sidetracked in North Philly before he ever showed his awesome brand of speed and power for the Pirates.

"I was surrounded by a lot of negativity," he said. "There were a lot of bad influences but I was looking at the bigger picture. I stayed dedicated to football. It took a lot of sacrifice but it's paid off. I came down here to ECU and it was a great experience. It made me become a man.

"They gave me an opportunity and it was a lot of hard work, but that was all I needed."

Coleman went to Oakland as a fifth round draft choice in 1999. He played in only three games that season and was credited with one tackle. It wasn't until the 2000 season that the Raiders began lining him up at defensive tackle. Coleman saw action in 13 games, made 16 tackles and had six sacks. He has 28.5 career sacks, including 11 in 2002.

Coleman said he endured a steady dose of grief when ECU went 1-11 last season.

"I caught a lot of heat from everybody out there in California," he said. "It was a rough year for the Pirates and I hope I don't have to go through that anymore."

So do the Pirates, obviously. A retooled offense under the direction of new coordinator Noah Brindise has been a source of optimism at ECU in the offseason. Coleman is integral in the plans of a restructured defense in Atlanta.

"In a 4-3 defense, as we've made our shift to, it's all about pressuring the quarterback," said Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay. "It's all about creating havoc by the defensive line and that's what we focused on coming into free agency. ... When we had the opportunity to get Rod, we had to make the move."

Oakland bid for Coleman and Cincinnati showed interest but young Dye indicated that he and the ex-Pirate sack monster had to make an escape from New York to get the deal done in Atlanta in March.

"In my 17 years in this business, I don't think I've ever had a client under more pressure not to leave a building," Dye said. "The head coach, the general manager, the assistant general manager of the Giants were all saying, 'You can't leave.' At one one point we weren't sure we were going to be able to get him on the airplane."

Dye shouldn't have worried considering the difficulty the best offensive linemen in the game have had in containing Coleman. His new contract got done the following day and although it is roughly the size of the annual budget for an emerging nation, it has had little effect on Coleman personally. He provides well for his family but not extravagantly. The 1992 Pontiac Grand Am he drove as a Pirate stayed in the family for quite a while.

"I gave it to my grandmother and she drove it until she got tired of it and gave it to an uncle," Coleman said. "He drove it until he got tired of it and gave it to somebody else in the family and they wrecked it."

Coleman hasn't turned vast quantities of his football-generated wealth over to automobile dealers.

"I'm not into cars like Lexus or Porsche," Coleman said. "I got a Cadillac Escalade but that's as extreme as I'm going to get. I'm not going to spend $100,000, $200,000 for a car. I'm just a laid back person. ... I'm not going to throw my money around. It's for my kids. That's how I look at it."

But Coleman did pick up the tab when he and some former teammates went out in Greenville the night before ECU's spring football game was rained out. Kevin Monroe and Troy Smith had a basketball game for former Pirates gridders at Greenville Rose the evening of the spring game to raise money for a program that helps disadvantaged youth.

"When I spend my money, it's always for a good cause," Coleman said. "When I'm around former teammates and friends I'm going to make sure they're having fun."

Coleman will be going to work on July 28 when Atlanta opens its training camp. The Falcons defense will be about getting the ball back for explosive quarterback Michael Vick and the offense.

"If we just get turnovers, then I'm quite sure No. 7 is going to make something happen with the ball," Coleman said. " ... This club is young and dedicated and has something to prove. That's why I chose the Falcons. We've got a rookie coach (Jim Mora, Jr.) and he's got something to prove. ... It was just a great fit."

Coleman will be wearing No. 75 for Atlanta. He wore No. 57 at ECU and with Oakland but No. 57 was retired with the Falcons so he flip-flopped the digits.

"He (Jeff Van Note) was a great player; that's why it's retired," Coleman said. "I'm just going to try and make my own number and hopefully I can do everything that he did and have 75 retired." contributed to this story.


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02/23/2007 12:46:01 AM

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