Cancer Survivor Returns to Practice for AU

Shon Coleman participated in practice on Wednesday for the first time as the Tigers put on the pads for a physical session at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--Although he didn't participate in Wednesday's 11 on 11 scrimmage periods and was in shorts as the Tigers worked out at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the big news for the Auburn football team was offensive tackle Shon Coleman being cleared to practice for the first time as a collegian.

A high school All-American from Olive Branch, Miss., High School, Coleman is a cancer survivor who has been making a strong comeback with the help of a new treatment being used by St. Jude's Children Hospital in Memphis.

Coach Gene Chizik called Coleman being able to practice on Wednesday, even in a very limited role, "a great thing."

"It was great to see him smile," the coach said. "Obviously, we are going to follow the directions of our medical staff to the letter in making sure we do this correctly.

Shon Coleman

"Obviously, our number one goal is the health and well being of our athletes," Chizik said. "We are excited to have Shon back. Our team is excited to have Shon back for the first day. It was great to see him have fun out there today."

Chizik said that Coleman will be taking "baby steps" in his return to football. "We are not going to predict anything right now. We are just going to take it day by day and get him acclimated. You know it has been two-plus years since he has put on a uniform so again we are just thrilled to have him out there.

"He is extremely excited and I am excited for him and his family," the coach added. "Talk about perseverance and commitment. He has worked extremely hard to get to this point. I am very proud of him."

Wednesday's practice was the 12th of 15 this spring for the Tigers. "I think we made some progress today," said Chizik, who added, "We did some good things on both sides of the ball. I thought we ran the ball a little bit better today, without question, and we are a work in progress but I thought it was a step in the right direction."

A theme of the spring has been working on developing a team that plays physical football and the head coach said he saw signs of his team playing that way on Wednesday.

"I thought it was productive on both sides of the ball," he said. "When you are out in the stadium and you are having a little bit of an opportunity to move the ball and call the offenses and defenses in a game-like situation, the experience invaluable. I thought today was very good for our team."

The head coach said the wide receivers have a lot of work to do as a group. "They are very inconsistent," he pointed out. "They had some really nice plays out there today--they made some nice catches, but at the same time we turn around and drop easy balls and that has been a concern of mine. For the first time in three years they have been very sporadic where normally they have been very consistent. That has not been the case this spring.

"We have got to get those guys being more consistent in practice catching the football and getting some yards after the catch," Chizik said.

Auburn's top receiver, senior Emory Blake, said he thought the receivers performed better than they did in the first and second scrimmage, but added, "We still have a long way to go.

Emory Blake led the Tigers in receiving last year.

"We just have to keep on improving, keep on learning the offense," Blake said. "We have to pay attention to detail. It is the small things that matter."

In other news and notes:

*Kickoff for Saturday's A-Day Game is set for 2 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the stadium on Saturday or can be bought on-line at aubtix.com.

*At 10 a.m. on the east side of the stadium the unveiling of statues honoring Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton is scheduled. All three men are expected to attend the ceremony.

*Redshirt freshman offensive guard Christian Westerman did not practice on Wednesday and is out with what is believed to be a minor injury.

*Former Auburn receiver Antonio Goodwin is on trial in Lee Country today in conjunction with an alleged armed robbery that took place last year. Current wide receiver DeAngelo Benton was called to testify in the case on Wednesday along with former Tiger Michael Dyer. Chizik said he would not comment on the trial.

*Redshirt freshman offensive guard is hurt and did not practice on Wednesday.

*Chizik said although he saw some encouraging signs with the running game on Wednesday he noted it is too inconsistent for his liking. "We are going to continue to focus on that," he said.

*The head coach expressed his condolences to the family of former Tiger star and coach Kurt Crain, who died on Tuesday in Mobile where he was an assistant coach at South Alabama.

Auburn assistant coach Mike Pelton, a friend of Crain's, said the news is difficult to deal with. "I can't believe it," he said. "He texted me Tuesday and said he was on the way and he would be here at eight o'clock...and them for somebody to tell me he is gone is surreal to me. He meant the world to me. He was supposed to be here right now at our practice. It is a tough day. It is a tough day for Auburn."

*The Tigers are scheduled to practice on Friday and the Monday.


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