Lorain County’s all-time leading rusher has decided to focus on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Brandon Coleman, who set the county mark with 5,141 yards despite missing five games during his junior season with a knee injury, has decided to play linebacker in college — at Kent State.
“I felt at home there,” Coleman said of Kent State. “When I was talking to the players, the coaching staff and the trainers I just felt like that was where I was supposed to be.”
Columbia coach Jason Ward said Coleman’s journey to Kent took quite a few twists and turns due to the injury.
“He was invited to Ohio State’s ‘Friday Night Lights Camp’ after his sophomore year,” Ward said. “He had everybody from Ohio State, Iowa, Pitt, Minnesota … a lot of big-time Power Five schools coming in before the injury.
“After that I think it took a little while for word to get out about what happened. We still had colleges coming in, and once they found out that he had that injury there was a lot of silence.
“It was a frustrating thing. Not just post-injury but during the season. We had a lot of people saying they wanted to see him play his first couple of games to see how he responded to the rehab.
“The same people would say they wanted to see him play half the season. Then they said they wanted to see him make it through the full season. It certainly wasn’t your traditional recruiting process. He probably handled it better than myself, his parents or anybody. He stayed very patient and very positive. It worked out for him at the end.”
Coleman, who is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, has no regrets.
“I think Kent is where I was supposed to be and that everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m not worried about anything but working my hardest and trying to win some games for Kent State. I just want to be the best player I can and be the best person I can in the classroom.”
Through the injury and rehab, one coach stayed in close contact with Coleman — Tom Kaufman, Kent’s defensive coordinator and associate head coach. Kent also boasts the youngest Football Bowl Subdivision head coach in the nation in 31-year-old Sean Lewis.
“It was the coaching staff,” Coleman said when asked why he decided on Kent State. “I hung out with them for a week and they have a bunch of great coaches there that can really turn that program around. I was talking with Coach Kaufman for the last few weeks and I’ve known him for a long time.
“I also talked to a lot of the players and just think they have the right pieces there to raise that program up.
“I’ve never been an offense-first player and I think I can be a great linebacker. Coach Kaufman is a great coach and he’s sent five guys to the NFL. I just want to work hard and get better and better each day.”
Ward said Coleman, the 2018 Golden Helmet Award winner as Lorain County’s top senior, has been a role model for Columbia’s younger players.
“Brandon’s leadership stems from hard work,” Ward said. “He’s never been a very vocal guy. A lot of times when you have an athlete with that much God-given ability … let’s just say he never rested on that. He was always the first one in the weight room, he was always the last one out. He did extra. He trained at a facility outside our facility.
“Those types of things, not only will I miss but I hope have laid the groundwork for other guys. I hope they have seen that no matter how talented you are, you still have to put in the work.”
Coleman was a Division VI first-team All-Ohio selection this season after rushing for 1,698 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. He had 76 TDs in his career. He was also named the Northeast Lakes Division VI Offensive Player of the Year.
He wanted to thank his parents, Pam and Stephen Coleman, as well as everyone at Columbia.
“I want to thank God, obviously, and my parents and family,” he said. “I also want to thank the doctors that worked on my knee and our trainer, Nicole (Vasquez) who was pushing me in the training room at school every day.
“I also want to thank my teammates for letting me have the years I had and the coaches who helped bring me up as a good man. I also want to thank Columbia Station for all the support over the last four years.”
Ward is looking forward to watching Coleman at the next level.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “I showed him a graph the other day that showed only 2.6 percent of high school football players in the country get the chance to be a scholarship Division I athlete.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that he was one of those 2.6 percent. It took a little while for some other people to think that way, but I think anybody that’s seen him play, met him and seen him up close believes that as well.
“It’s been quite a journey. It’s been quite a journey for all of us.”
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