Coleman Excited To Play For Chizik

Antonio Coleman explains his decision to return for his senior season.

Mobile, Ala.—Head coach Gene Chizik has been on the job at Auburn for just two weeks and has had a full plate hiring assistant coaches, recruiting and also convincing the current players to return for the 2009 season.

On Saturday he added another piece to the puzzle as defensive end Antonio Coleman announced he would return for his final season as an Auburn Tiger.

"I met with him a couple of times," Coleman says of Chizik. "I went up a couple of days ago and met with him. He instilled a lot of thought and a lot of pride in what he's about to do at Auburn University. I think it's going to be something special. I want to be that guy that helped turn the program around and get us back to where it's supposed to be.

"When I found out Tubs (Tommy Tuberville) had gotten fired, that button immediately went off in my head–me, Sen'Derrick (Marks) and Jerraud (Powers)," Coleman adds. "We sat down and talked about it. I had to step back and realize that it is a business and there is nothing I can do about it. If I was to leave I don't know who would be my coach in the NFL. I don't know my position coach would be in the NFL or my defensive coordinator.

"I talked with Coach Chizik. He recruited me when I came in and I don't know too much about him, but I think he's a great ball coach and he's a great asset to the Auburn family.

"When he first got here I met with him after we had our team meeting. Then he came down (to Mobile) and I met with him then and I went back up and met with him two days ago. I just wanted to get with him, feel him out and see what direction the program is going in. Like I said, I want to be the guy that helps turn this around and get things rolling the right way.

"I wanted to go out with a bang and turn this program around," he continues. "We've got a new coach. It's hard to go undefeated in two seasons in the SEC or any caliber of D-I football. Coach Chizik did it at Auburn and then he went to Texas and went undefeated. I think that's a blessing, he's a great coach and I'd love to play for him."

Coleman announced his decision in front of family, friends and reporters in the Williamson High School gym in Mobile on Saturday afternoon. He also credited James Willis, Auburn's linebacker coach who recruits the Mobile area, as a reason for coming back for his fifth year at Auburn.

"I'd also like to thank Coach Willis," Coleman says, " who got his job back not too long ago, which played a big part of it also. He's a father-figure to me. Anything I go through I talk to him and he has a way for me to get through what I'm going through."

Coleman also gave special thanks to Will Muschamp, Tuberville, Terry Price, Don Dunn, Kevin Yoxall, Brother Chette Williams and all of his high school coaches for helping him to be in a position to where the NFL is a possibility. Coleman says the NFL evaluations had him in the second or third round, but with one more year in the SEC he believes that the first round in the 2010 NFL Draft is a possibility.

Coleman sought out advice from Muschamp, Price, and his family, but everyone told Coleman that it was his decision to make.

"Just like I told him, it was his decision," says mother Orvia Coleman. "It was a decision he would have to make. Nobody could make that decision for him. I'm satisfied with what he does no matter which way it goes. I'm proud of whatever."

Coleman's nephew Terrence is a defensive lineman at Williamson who committed to Auburn early in the recruiting process, but has looked around at other schools since the coaching change. However, Antonio expects to team up with his younger brother in an Auburn uniform next season.

"It played a lot into my decision," Coleman says of the opportunity to play with his nephew. "We'll sit around and talk and he'll ask me what I'm going to do and I'll say, ‘I don't know.' He's pretty much waiting on me to see what I was going to do before he makes his decision. I told him everything is going to be all right. It's going to be kind of awkward because I feel like the dad and I've got to watch over him and keep him in line. I think it'll be pretty good.

With Terrence looking around at other schools, most notably Arkansas, Antonio says he'll give him extra incentive to go to Auburn.

"I'm going to beat him up," Antonio jokes. "If I came back for my senior year, he's coming up there to play with him. I think he's solid and he'll be up there with me. I think he'll end up playing for the Auburn family. It's something special. When you get a scholarship to Auburn, it's a big family. You've got the Gator Nation and all these things, but there is nothing like the Auburn family. It's something special."

Click here for the full press conference transcript.

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