Southeast Missouri State fullback Coleman can block, run, catch

Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Southeast Missouri State sophomore fullback Ron Coleman was the Redhawks’ second-leading rusher last season. (Laura Simon)

Fullback is sometimes a forgotten position in football these days.

Not at Southeast Missouri State. Not with a sledgehammer like sophomore Ron Coleman around.

Coleman, more athletic and nimble than his 250 pounds might suggest, put together one of the best statistical campaigns by a true Southeast fullback in years last season despite being a redshirt freshman.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel doesn't expect that production to dip this season. If anything, he thinks it just might increase.

"He played really well as a freshman, and he came back in great shape for the fall," Samuel said Monday during Southeast's media day at Houck Stadium. "The hope is he's further along than he was last year."

Southeast Missouri State fullback Ron Coleman finds an opening in the Eastern Kentucky defense during a game last season. (NATHAN HUTCHINSON ~ Richmond Register)

Samuel generally has used a traditional fullback since taking over at Southeast before the 2006 season. But most of those fullbacks were used primarily as blockers. Rarely did they carry or catch the football with much regularity.

Coleman has proven to be the type of strong blocker Southeast's run-oriented offense demands. He has also proven to be a talented runner and receiver.

"We think fullback is vital for our style of offense," Samuel said. "He's been a good blocker, but the nice thing about it, we can run him and we can throw the ball to him."

Coleman was the Redhawks' No. 2 rusher last year with 320 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. He was Southeast's No. 3 receiver with 14 catches, averaging 9.9 yards, and ranked No. 2 in touchdowns with five.

"I was pretty pleased for my first year. I thought I did a lot of good things, but I have a lot I need to work on," said Coleman, who scored a touchdown in four of Southeast's final five games last season.

The 5-foot-11 Coleman, a native of Omaha, Neb., started 10 of Southeast's 11 games a year ago. He welcomed the playing time but never envisioned being such a big part of the offense.

"I never played fullback before. I was a running back in high school," he said. "It felt good to carry the ball. I thought I'd never get it again. But I'd rather not carry the ball if it means we'll win more games."

While Coleman was happy to make his mark with the football, he realizes his primary responsibility is to block. He relishes that physical part of the game.

"My first job is always to block. I like looking people in the eyes and putting them on their backs. It takes their heart away," Coleman said with a smile.

Coleman has proven to be a good football player, and Samuel believes he's only going to get better over the next few years.

But that sport might not be Coleman's best.

Coleman was a three-time state champion wrestler in high school and was rated as the No. 2 wrestling prospect in Nebraska by several publications.

He said several colleges recruited him to compete in both sports. His original plan was to attend Ohio State, where he would receive some scholarship money for wrestling and be a walk-on in football.

"But I decided I didn't want to wrestle anymore. I just wanted to play football," Coleman said.

Coleman settled on Southeast. He said he's been pleased with his decision but admits he misses his other sport.

"I've been wrestling since I was 2. I love wrestling. I can't say which one I like more," Coleman said. "I miss it, especially when I see people I beat before placing and winning national titles [in college]."

Samuel often has said how much he likes football players who have a wrestling background. Several current Redhawks used to excel on the mat.

"I love wrestlers," Samuel said.

Coleman is certain his wrestling exploits have made him a better football player.

"It helps me a lot," he said. "With leveraging, positioning. ... The best thing is learning how to be strong mentally."

Coleman believes the Redhawks will prove to be strong physically and mentally this year as they try to bounce back from a 3-8 season that included a 2-6 Ohio Valley Conference record.

Coleman redshirted as a freshman in 2010, when Southeast had its record-setting year that produced the program's first OVC title and first playoff berth on any level.

"We're finally a team, like we were in 2010," Coleman said. "We all know each other. We're all together. We're all united. I don't think we were as united as we should have been last year.

"I feel we're at that level like we were in 2010. I think we'll have an excellent season."

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