May 9, 2014
Auburn's Shon Coleman makes the pick at the NFL Draft with his mother, DeKeisha Turnstall, at his side
By Charles Goldberg
NEW YORK -- DeKeisha Turnstall said she had just awakened from a nap when she got the email from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"I actually had to read it twice, because I was like, 'Oh my gosh.'"
No, it was true. Her son, Auburn offensive lineman Shon Coleman, had been invited to announce a first-round pick at the NFL Draft on behalf of the hospital that helped him beat cancer.
"They said the NFL had seen Shon's story, the documentary that we worked on, and that they wanted to invite him and I to come and participate. Amazing opportunity."
So there they were, the two of them on stage at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night, to announce the 14th overall pick in the draft for the St. Louis Rams. The crowd gave Coleman a nice hand as an announcer told his story of overcoming cancer. Doctors found the cancer shortly after he signed with Auburn in 2010. He missed time, played last season and has a chance to start this fall.
Coleman and St. Jude have been supportive of each other from the beginning.
"I'm glad he has the opportunity to inspire others and let them know they can get through the situation. I get calls or messages on Facebook all the time," Turnstall said.
It was a big night for Auburn. Offensive lineman Greg Robinson was the No. 2 overall pick, going to the Rams. Defensive end Dee Ford was another first-rounder, at 23 to Kansas City.
Coleman said he'd like to hear his name called again at Radio City, in the future as a draft pick himself. He was Robinson's backup last season.
"It's my ultimate goal to be a part of the draft, and it's just something I'm working for," Coleman said.
"I believe he'll have a chance, possibly, of coming back here some day," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. "We ate lunch today, and talked about that. I'm really excited for him and his family, too."
Coleman is a cancer survivor and a reason for hope.
"I want people that's going through my situation, or has been through my situation, just view me and know that you can always get through anything," he said. "I hope it can be an encouraging experience for anybody that's going through the same situation I did."
Still, Coleman is a young man who wants to play football.
"I think right now his focus is more on football," his mother said. She said her son is trying to put his fight with cancer "in the back part of his mind, but, of course, it's something that I'm sure he thinks about."
He was on stage surely thinking about it. He was there for St. Jude. But it was also a time to take it all in as a football player.
"It's crazy," he said. "I never thought I'd be here in the first place. Just being around cool people and the cameras, the lights and everything, it's just crazy."
Coleman figures a return trip to Radio City involves his play on the field.
"Just go out there and keep getting better every day," he said. "Staying humble, keep your faith in God, and going out there, working on the little things, working on technique, working on the things that I need to work on, and just polishing everything. I think it'll work out for me."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine