College Sports in the Carolinas
Watch for Al Myatt's
profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's
from the East
Monday, July 12, 2004
By Al Myatt
New Falcon well-heeled but
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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."
NFL.com contributed to this story.
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02/23/2007 12:46:01 AM