Free agent Antonio Coleman trying to beat odds by earning spot with Buffalo Bills | al.com
Free agent Antonio Coleman trying to beat odds by earning spot with Buffalo Bills
By Mike Herndon
May 12, 2010, 7:29AM
G.M. ANDREWS/Staff PhotographerFormer Williamson High and Auburn star Antonio Coleman was at the Senior Bowl in Mobile and is now trying to earn a spot with the Buffalo Bills.Five months ago, Antonio Coleman was the big man on campus. Now he’s just another name on a list of long shots trying to prove they belong in the NFL.
Mike HerndonColeman, the Williamson High alum who led the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss at Auburn last season, began his professional career last week with a three-day mini-camp in Buffalo, where he’s trying to make the Bills as a free agent.
It’ll be a long, hard slog before Coleman knows whether to start looking for a house in Buffalo, but he believes he got off to a good start.
"It’s hard to tell, but I think I went up there and performed at the level I’m supposed to perform at," Coleman said this week. "I was physical, and when I had to rush, I got after the quarterback."
The mini-camp was filled with meetings, meetings and more meetings, with the players then trying to put what they learned into practice on the field. With an entirely new staff led by head coach Chan Gailey, the learning curve is steep for veterans and newcomers alike.
On defense, the Bills are switching to a 3-4 set that has Coleman, a defensive end in college, lining up at Jack linebacker. He and veteran Aaron Maybin, who also is making the conversion from defensive end, were the only two Jack linebackers in the mini-camp, allowing for plenty of reps.
Coleman said he received praise during the camp from outside linebackers coach Bob Sanders. He can draw further encouragement from the words of Gailey during a recent Bills press conference.
"Everybody who walks on that football field has a chance," Gailey said. "If you don’t go by that philosophy, then to me you’re short-changing these guys you’re signing. You have to give them an opportunity to win a job."
Free agents face long odds, but Coleman and others like Alabama’s Colin Peek (Falcons), Eryk Anders (Browns), Cory Reamer (Jets) and Lorenzo Washington (Cowboys) can take heart in the stories of players like Saints running back Pierre Thomas, Redskins running back Willie Parker and Colts center Jeff Saturday, NFL regulars who entered the league as undrafted rookies.
Last year, former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson stuck with the Falcons after signing as a free agent, and former Vigor standout Ellis Lankster, a seventh-round pick in the ’09 draft, earned playing time with the Bills in 2009 after many assumed he wouldn’t survive in a crowded Bills’ secondary.
Coleman, who knew Lankster from their high school days in Mobile, said he spent a good bit of time with the former West Virginia cornerback during the mini-camp. Also taking part last week was former Troy quarterback Levi Brown, a seventh-round pick in April’s draft.
Coleman, Lankster, Brown and the rest of the Bills are off this week, returning to Buffalo this weekend for OTAs and another chance to prove themselves.
"I’ve just got to take it one step at a time," Coleman said. "I just go out there and play every play like it’s my last, because you never know."
Contact Mike Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org