Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman, Saturday is a day he’s been waiting on for a long time. One of the top players at his position in the country coming out of Olive Branch (Miss.) High, Coleman was set to be a difference-maker early in his Auburn career until a battle with leukemia put his football plans on hold.
Working his way back into playing shape for the 2013 season, Coleman saw action as the backup to Greg Robinson at left tackle while also seeing some time as an extra tight end for the Tigers. Now set to start in Auburn’s season opener this weekend against Arkansas, the massive Memphis native said he can’t wait to take the field.
"I'm pretty excited just to be out there with my teammates,” Coleman said. “Fall camp's been a grind and we're just ready to go out there and do our thing.
"That's one of the reasons I worked so hard from that point on just to get back on the field in general, and just to be back out with my teammates and play for Auburn."
This moment is one of those things that drove Coleman during the seemingly endless treatments he had to endure at Children’s Hospital. For some it may have felt like too much of a battle to take, Coleman said he never doubted this day would come for him again.
"Faith, that's been one of the biggest things that's just kept striving me forward, with my family, and just working hard,” he said. “Where I'm from in Memphis, you really don't see a lot of people even get to college or the spot that I'm in. My hometown really showed me that you have to work hard for anything that you want or desire."
When Coleman lines up for the first snap he can take comfort in having veteran Chad Slade beside him at left guard. Also Coleman’s roommate, Slade said for him it’s just fun being able to play beside a player like Coleman because of his energy and love for the game that has brought him back and better than ever.
“Playing beside Shon is a great thing. Him being my roommate and everything, it’s great to see all that he’s been through and all he’s accomplished in the past since his treatment. It’s great to see him back out there and it’s going to be great to play next to him. I have told him that we’re going to be a great team. We learn from each other, we teach each other, we do everything we had to do to get better. It’s a great thing to see Shon back out there.
“He’s a great player. He works hard. He wants to learn. He’s one of those players that, during the summer, he tells me to come out there and work on stuff on Saturday and Sunday. He wants to get better each and every day. He works on his technique every single play. He’s a great player.”
While playing winning football is the ultimate goal for Coleman, Slade and the Tigers, there is also the opportunity to improve yourself as a person along the way. Slade said that’s something Coleman has helped out the entire team with because of what he’s gone through and how he handled everything thrown his way.
“He’s teaches me how to be a great person inside,” Slade said. “He’s one of those teammates, you see all he’s been through and he’s never given up, you know you don’t have any right to give up. It inspires you to go harder each and every play. I know I’ll go 110 percent for him and he’s going to go 110 percent for me. It’s one of those great things where we work with each other and bond a good bit.”