April 1, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN -- Coach J.B. Grimes was yelling at his offensive linemen at Auburn's spring practice Monday. Tackle Shon Coleman didn't mind one bit.
"He gets us to the level we're supposed to be at practice," Coleman said. "He just wants to get us upbeat."
Coleman took practice all in, fortunate to be on the practice field at all, considering he battled cancer and beat cancer. Now, three years removed from the original diagnosis, Coleman says he's ready to contribute after spending last year practicing but being redshirted as he continued to build up his strength.
He's still on the road back, but a lot farther along than he was a few weeks after he signed his scholarship in 2010 as a five-star recruit from Olive Branch, Miss., and learned just weeks later he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Auburn promised him that day it would stick with him, would honor his scholarship no matter what, and did.
Coleman, who received his medical treatment at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis for two years, missed the 2010 and 2011 seasons and redshirted in 2012.
How far has he come? His Monday chat with the media was more about playing time and less about cancer. It's a story that will always be with him, but he wants to be a football player first.
"I'm focused on making the team better, doing my part as a player and to improve to be a better player," he said.
Coleman checks in at 6-foot-6, 294. He's a redshirt freshman after being granted a sixth year of eligibility earlier this year.
He was cleared to practice last spring. He didn't get into a game, though he said he began feeling 100 percent ready last fall. But he said it wasn't a lost season.
"I was just staying back and looking at the offense and working on technique, getting in the weight room and lifting a little bit more than the usual. It's paid off," Coleman said.
Coleman said the weight room work has made him a better player.
"I've improved since high school, strength-wise, speed-wise and working on better technique and using it on the field," he said.
Shon Coleman, football player, is ready to play.
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