SEATTLE - Justin Coleman is quick to admit he’s had a tougher road to the NFL than most.
The Seattle Seahawks cornerback said he managed to make it anyway, thanks in large part to a high school coach who helped him build a motor that never stops running.
“It shows your character on the field,” Coleman said. “It shows who you are. And if you just let somebody push you over on the field, you’ll probably let it happen in life.”
Coleman has been a fighter since before he can remember. He grew up the third-oldest of 10 kids in Brunswick, Ga., and had to battle for just about everything.
“Everybody wanted to eat,” Coleman said. “There was not enough food in the house. So that became one of the competitive parts in the house.”
Competition fueled Coleman as a high school track star, where his remarkable speed quickly grabbed the attention of Brunswick High School football coach Victor Floyd.
Floyd quickly realized he had something special on his hands.
“He has something inside of him,” Floyd told Q13 News. “A will and determination that most people don’t possess.”
Coleman still remembers the moment in high school when everything changed for him.
He was covering a receiver named Keenan Allen, who has since gone on to become a Pro Bowl for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Coleman got dominated.
Floyd didn’t filter his disappointment.
“I never seen a grown man cry like that in front of me,” Coleman said. “He was just talking to me, tearing, and telling me how disappointed he was.”
Floyd remembers it well.
“We constantly told him ‘you’re our guy,’” Floyd said. “Any big game, we’re constantly going to put you against the other team’s best player.”
That moment lit a fire under Coleman that eventually caught the attention of coaches at the University of Tennessee, where he would play in every single game of his four years.
Still, he was not drafted and would soon grow very familiar with uncertainty.
In 2015, the Minnesota Vikings signed him. Then, during camp, they cut him. It would kick off a stretch of nine days in which he would head to the Patriots, then the Seahawks, then the Patriots again.
“I’ve never flown that much in my life,” Coleman laughed. “I can just say it was stressful.”
He would stick for a while with New England in his second stint there but saw only limited playing time.
Finally, however, he landed back in Seattle in 2017. It all culminated last season with an interception against the Dallas Cowboys that made just about every year-end highlight reel, as Coleman picked off a Dak Prescott pass and ran it back into the end zone before jumping into a giant Salvation Army kettle in celebration.
“As soon as I scored I was like, ‘I need a celebration,’” Coleman said. “I looked and seen the red bucket and I was like, ‘there it goes. I’m jumping in.’”
There’s more than just the touchdown for Coleman to celebrate. Last year, he married his longtime girlfriend and the two are expecting their first child.
Family. Career. Coleman has a lot to put his all into – and that’s just the way he likes it.
“I just want people to be like, ‘no matter what, that dude went hard,’” Coleman said. “’That dude gave his all.’”