Coleman Doesn't Want to Disappoint Bowden

CLEMSON – When Duane Coleman protested in the spring to participating in a drill that broke his foot the previous August, he went about it the wrong way and was ultimately suspended from the football team. It wound up being nearly the end of the tailback's career.

"A lot of other smaller schools like (Division II) called and asked me if I wanted to play there," Coleman, a senior, said after his and the team's first day of practice on Monday. "And I was like if I can't play at Clemson, I don't want to play anywhere and I was just going to give it all up.

"Luckily, Coach (Tommy) Bowden gave me a second chance and I'm going to do all I can not to disappoint him."

Bowden told Coleman, who is a svelte 200 pounds, that in order to return to the team, he had to attend every one of his remaining classes in the spring, try to bring up his grades and not miss a summer workout.

Mission accomplished.

Coleman said he "pulled a 3.2" during the spring and attended every single workout in both summer sessions. He was more than happy to have to go the extra mile to prove his worth.

Missing the Spring Game was a big jolt of reality and he was going to do whatever it took to return to the team.

"It was tough," he said. "You don't know how much you miss something until it's gone. You hear that, but just watching it, it just ate me up. … I think I (made a mistake). Even if I was right in about what happened, I just handled it in a wrong way. You can always voice your opinion if you do it in the right way. That's another thing that I've learned.

"I learned a lot being away from football for a little bit. It's a privilege. Once you've been in football for so long, you tend to take it for granted and now you just know it's a privilege. … You have to be mature. Everything's not going to go your way. I just learned a lot. I'm just happy to be back with guys."

While he was officially off the team, Coleman it made him take a long look at himself and helped him grow on and off the field.

"It made me check myself," he said. "When I wasn't on the team, it magnified everything. What can I do to make myself a better person? I used to blow up fast. It didn't take much for me just to catch an attitude. Now, I kind of catch myself. I may say a word or two then I just bite my tongue. But before, it was hard for me to bite my tongue."

For instance, being designated as the third-string tailback isn't exactly what he's used to, but Coleman isn't complaining.

"No problem," he said. "I'm just happy to be back with the guys and once we put on the pads, I'll see if I can make my move then."

With a new sense of focus and an attitude adjustment, Coleman truly has a new lease on football life. And he's not going to let anything prevent him from getting back on the field and contributing.

"You hear coaches say all the time, ‘Play like it's your last play,' " he said. "I think it's for real now."

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