With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May. Earlier in the week we heard from Duke defensive back Ross Cockrell, and today, we hear from highly talented Rutgers wide receiver, Brandon Coleman.
Coleman started at receiver in his final two and a half seasons for the Scarlet Knights, earning second-team All-Big East honors. He left Rutgers after his junior year tied for first in career touchdown receptions with 20 and most touchdown receptions in a season with 10 in 2012.
Coleman has been one of the top receivers on his team the past two seasons, and his tremendous size (6-6, 220) has him drawing Vincent Jackson comparisons at the next level. NFL.com‘s Daniel Jeremiah sees Coleman as a third or fourth round pick in this year’s draft, and a guy that has the potential to move up into the second round with good numbers at the combine.
Many believed Coleman would be an early round pick after his breakout 2012 season (43 rec, 718 yards, 10 TDs), but Coleman’s numbers dipped a bit in 2013 as a junior due to inconsistent quarterback play and a knee injury he was still recovering from in the offseason.
Since Coleman could be a real steal for a team like the Packers in the draft, I wanted to learn more about him. I reached out to the former Scarlet Knight and had the privilege to speak with Coleman over the phone.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you first get into football?
BC: I grew up in Maryland in Georgia county. I started playing flag football when I was seven. I just started like any other kid. It was just fun. Then I went to little league and kept playing all the way through high school. By the time high school came around, my sophomore year I finally got my first scholarship offer. I didn’t go to high school thinking I was going to go to college and play football. That was just the next thing, the next level. So when I get my first scholarship I was like “Wow, I can actually continue this journey.”
Q. What led you to play for Rutgers?
BC: Rutgers wasn’t the first school to offer me a scholarship. Maryland was the first. Then all these different offers started coming in my junior year. I talked with the guys that came before me and with my coaches and friends for advice and they helped me narrow the schools down.
It came down to Rutgers, Syracuse, and Maryland. I chose Rutgers because they have a good education background and the location wasn’t too far from home, but it was far enough where I could still be on my own for a little bit. For networking it wasn’t too far from New York, Philly, or DC.
Also, football wise, I like being the underdog. Rutgers wasn’t like a top-ten school. I wanted to earn respect, and I feel like I did that. I had the mentality that I would prove people wrong, especially those who may look down on me for going to a school like Rutgers. That is always my mindset. I wanted to build that legacy and have my name on it. Now I’m here getting ready for the next level.
Q. You finished your college tied for first at Rutgers in career touchdown receptions with 20. You also have three of the ten longest receptions in school history (92, 86, 85 yds), and you tied the school’s single-season receiving touchdown record with 10 in 2012. How does it feel to leave your mark on Rutgers’ history?
BC: I feel like I put a lot into it. A lot of hard work. It’s something I can be proud of. I can lay my head down at night knowing I gave it my all.
Q. How will you transfer this success to the NFL?
BC: It will just be a process, starting from the bottom on the totem pole all over again. I’m excited for the opportunity to prove myself once again. Just to go out there and start building my brand. Making a name for myself at this next level and continue to be consistent.
Q. For those of us who may not have watched you at Rutgers, describe for us your style of play. What are your strengths as a receiver?
BC: My strengths are making big plays. I like to stretch the field and put pressure on the defense from anywhere on the field. My strength is also my actual physical strength. I also have good game speed. My speed is deceptive, and I think I use that to my ability.
I would also say my size is a strength. Right now, I’m 6-foot-6, 225 pounds. It helps me play the position. It gives me an advantage to help position myself in the right way when going up for the ball. It also gives me confidence going into matchups, knowing that I feel I can hold my own, especially at the next level. The DBs get bigger in the NFL, so I want to be able to hold my own against those guys.
Q. Are there any NFL players you try to model your game after or draw comparisons to?
BC: I’ve been following Calvin Johnson since he was at Georgia Tech. He was actually the reason I wore No. 21 in high school. That was his number at Georgia Tech. I also like Andre Johnson. I like the way both players play the position. They really don’t look for all that extra attention. They just do their job the right way without any extra drama. Everybody has a lot of respect for the way they play. Larry Fitzgerald is also a first class guy. I want to emulate my game after those guys.
Q. Were there any players you watched growing up that inspired you to play football or become a receiver?
BC: Growing up, one of my favorite players was Jevon Kearse, defensive end for the Tennessee Titans. Just watching him move around on the field just made me want to play football. I never played defensive end, but he was one of those guys that stands out from my childhood.
Q. In your opinion, what is the most underrated part of your game?
BC: My ability to block. I take pride in being a physical receiver. I understand it’s a team game. For me to be able to catch that deep pass the running back has to pass protect. They don’t get a lot of credit for that. When it’s time for him to get around the edge, the least I can do is hold my guy so he doesn’t make the tackle. It goes hand-in-hand.
Q. With the college season well over, what will you be doing over the next few months to get ready for the draft in May?
BC: Just trying to train, take one step at a time, and get ready for the combine. I just want to work on the detail of my game and get ready for all the drills they’re going to have us do at the combine that everybody stresses over. I just want to get my confidence right for that and just go out there and let it loose. Knock it out, and then do pro days shortly after that. The next couple months after that will be just individual workouts for the teams.
Q. Anything specific you want to prove to scouts and teams at the combine and pro days?
BC: I want to prove that I have soft hands. That I can catch. That I can use my body. After that, I just want to show them I have speed. I want to run well. I’m shooting to run the 40 in a low 4.5s and high 4.49 range.
Q. The Packers may look to draft a receiver this spring. How would you feel about playing in Green Bay?
BC: I would like that a lot. Mainly, because of the quarterback situation. Aaron Rodgers is a top quarterback in the league right now. I would like to learn from the veteran receivers like Jordy Nelson. Actually one of Nelson’s coaches was my position coach at Rutgers a few seasons ago. I would have that connection with him. To learn under him would be phenomenal. The Packers are just a good organization. They’re well respected. They seem to have a loyal fanbase because of all the history in that stadium. I couldn’t ask for a better situation, but you know, we’ll have to wait and see.
Q. If they drafted you, what kind of player and teammate would they be getting?
BC: They’d be getting a leader. A guy that wants to come in and work hard. A gym rat who’s just going to be open to all parts of the game. A guy that wants to learn from the guys in front of me. A guy that wants to make an impact. I don’t want to be a guy just to draft and waste, but a guy that can come in be able to make an impact.
Q. The Packers have been known for having a prolific passing game for several years now, but what could you bring to their offense?
BC: Not to take anything away from what they have already, but I really think that I could bring that last piece to the puzzle. I could take it to the next level and really just get it going on all cylinders. I could help make that offense really unstoppable.
Q. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Who have been the most influential people on your journey to becoming a professional football player?
BC: My parents definitely. They’ve been my rock ever since the beginning. They never pressured me, but they always encouraged me. Then my older brother. We’re ten years apart, but he’s one of the reasons why I keep going. He’s not into sports or anything, but I have always looked up to him. I want to be like him. That’s why I believe I matured faster than some of the guys my age. I was always hanging around my brother and his friends.
My high school football coach was a big influence as well. He’s been a mentor to me, both in football and spiritually. He helped guide me through the high school process and the college process. Even now, he’s helping me through this process.
Q. What have been some of the major challenges for you to get to this point?
BC: One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was batting injury setbacks, whether it was high school or college. I recently messed up my knee going into this last season. There was a lot of pressure on me figuring out what my next move was going to be. I was coming off a good season in 2012, so I just wanted to come into 2013 and elevate my game with a big season. But it didn’t happen like that.
I mean everything happens for a reason, and I’m still in the position to make the most out of it. All of those things make you stronger, so I’m glad that happened. Not necessarily the injury, but just the experience of battling through it.
Besides injury, my first couple of years at Rutgers I had to fight to get playing time. Nobody wants to sit out. Dealing with that, thinking I wasn’t good enough to play at that level just because I redshirted, that humbled me a lot. I worked even harder to get on the field my redshirt year because of that.
Q. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time?
BC: I’m a real laid back guy. I can be outgoing, but I’m rather reserved. I just like to spend time with family and close friends. I spend so much time working out and studying my craft that when it’s time to chill I just want to chill. That’s one of the reasons why my teammates at Rutgers gave me the grandpa nickname “Pap Pap.” They rarely saw me out, and that is also part of my maturity as well. I’d just rather be at home, kick back, and watch TV and movies or get together with friends and family. I really don’t need too much.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about your game?
BC: I’m not just a deep threat guy. I can be a possession receiver as well. I don’t want to just be known as that guy that only runs the go route. My game has expanded over this last season, and the film will speak for itself.
Career college stats
2013 – 34 rec, 538 yards, 15.82 avg, 4 TDs
2012 – 43 rec, 718 yards, 16.70 avg, 10 TDs
2011 – 17 rec, 552 yards, 32.47 avg, 6 TDs
Film on Brandon Coleman
Brandon Coleman Highlights
Brandon Coleman against Fresno State (2013): 9 rec, 94 yards, and 2 TDs
Brandon Coleman against UConn (2011): 6 rec, 223 yards, and 2 TDs
Watch more film on Brandon Coleman at draftbreakdown.com.