Featured Falcon Friday: Running Back Tevin Coleman

Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) dives in for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons defeated the Broncos 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) dives in for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons defeated the Broncos 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Fresh off his clutch performance against the Denver Broncos, Tevin Coleman is this week’s Featured Falcon Friday nominee.

Everything Tevin Coleman has done in his life, he’s done it fast. From his track star days at Oak Forest High School in Oak Forest, Illinois, to his All-American career at Indiana University, Coleman has blazed a path of glory thanks to his elite, top end speed.

So naturally, outsiders figured the start to Coleman’s NFL career would resemble a cannon ball being shot out of a cannon. After all, the new Falcon regime selected “Teco” as their first offensive draft choice in the third round of last year’s draft. With a resume that included Doak Walker Award finalist and unanimous All-American selection, Tevin stood a good chance of winning the Falcons’ starting tailback duties in camp.

And Tevin Coleman did just that, thanks in part to an injury to Devonta Freeman. But Teco’s story does not end there. Like most fairy tale endings, Coleman’s journey to NFL stardom would not be without adversity.

After a successful debut performance (20 carries for 80 yards) on Monday Night Football, Teco got knocked out of his next game versus the New York Giants with a rib injury. What followed could not have been predicted by even the most hopeful prognosticator.

In Atlanta’s third game of the 2015 season against the Dallas Cowboys, Devonta Freeman broke out. Freeman became an instant fantasy football icon in the game and would never look back. As a result, Coleman turned into an afterthought in the Falcons backfield and failed to regain his starting job. It didn’t help his cause either that he developed a fumbling problem late in the season.

For the average NFL player, a setback like this would all but derail their career. But Tevin Coleman possesses a trait that has become a staple of other Falcon draft picks —character. Born to Liberian immigrants Wister and Adlevia Coleman, Tevin developed an appreciation for all of life’s fortunes and misfortunes.

The latter led Coleman on a two-week mission trip to his native Liberia this past offseason. Along with his father, brother and church pastor, Tevin and his cohort left West Africa in better condition than when they first arrived. Their exploits included seven clean water wells, a medical clinic for children, and surveying two sites for potential schools.

As much good as Tevin did for the people of West Africa, the natives did even more for him. Witnessing an orphaned six year-old girl carry her baby sister as they struggled to survive left a lasting impact on Coleman. It reminded him just how blessed he is to be playing football for a living.

Coleman parlayed that experience in Africa into a great offseason of improving at his craft. Tevin’s name often came up during the offseason as a player that stood out. The aspect of Teco’s game that especially caught the eye of the media was his receiving skills.

For a player that had a total of two catches for 14 yards all of last season, reading that came as a shock to most fans. Even in college, Coleman never flashed much in the pass game, totaling just 54 receptions for 383 yards in his three year career in Bloomington.

We now know what the coaching staff was raving about in the summer. Aside from Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman has transformed into the biggest nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to guard against.

Just ask Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his linebacking corps. Tevin lit up the Bronco linebackers for 132 receiving yards last Sunday in a performance that goes beyond the stat sheet.

Leading up to the game, speculation circulated whether the Falcons second year tailback would even play in Denver. Coleman was born with the sickle cell trait (SCT), a genetic condition found in one out of twelve African Americans. High altitudes such as the one in Denver have been known to exacerbate SCT symptoms. To put it into perspective, former Steelers safety Ryan Clark lost his spleen and gall bladder due to the risks of playing in altitude.

Nevertheless, Coleman insisted to reporters all week that he would suit up for the Bronco game. And if fans had any doubt about Tevin’s condition, Teco put those to rest on the Falcons opening drive. Lined up in the slot, Coleman got free over the middle thanks to an Austin Hooper screen. Ryan hit the back in stride and Teco did the rest, scampering 48 yards into Denver territory to set up a Falcons touchdown.

In Tevin Coleman, the Falcons have at their disposal a triple threat capable of running, catching and pass blocking. Throw in Devonta Freeman, who also excels in those three areas, and the Falcons own the undisputed best running back duo in football.

The Falcons high-flying offense is the envy of the league, and Tevin Coleman is a big reason why. And who knows. Had it not been for a few early bumps in the road and an excursion to his homeland, we may not be holding the Falcons offense in such high regard.

Keep an eye on Blogging Dirty’s Twitter account (@BloggingDirty) for your chance to vote on next week’s Featured Falcon Friday.