The Anniston native would buy cards and gifts for two father figures --- his dad and Robert Mosby, the coach who inspired him on the field at Cobb Avenue High School and beyond, as a player at Florida A&M and coach and administrator in Florida and Georgia.
“I would send him a card for Father’s Day,” Coleman said. “I’d come home for Father’s Day, and I’d buy him a gift, and I’d buy my dad a gift.”
Coleman drew upon Mosby’s inspiration through his 50-plus years as a player, coach and administrator, and Coleman’s accomplishments have won him inclusion in this year’s Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame class.
The class set to be inducted Saturday at the Oxford Civic Center includes former Jacksonville High football standouts Jimmy Luttrell and Darrell Malone, late Anniston Municipal Golf Course pro Buddy Moore, former Calhoun County High basketball star E.C. “Baldy” Wilson and late Piedmont High football star Bobby Wilson.
At Cobb from 1955-58, Coleman starred in track and was twice an all-district tackle in football.
He went on to play on Jack Gaither’s famous “Blood, Sweat and Tears” teams at FAMU. The Rattlers averaged 55 points a game and were twice recognized as black college national champions on Coleman’s watch.
“We always said in 1961 – that was the best team I ever played on -- we could go down there and fly to Miami and play Miami for breakfast, and fly to Gainesville and play Florida for lunch then fly back to Tallahassee to play FSU (Florida State), and we could win all of them,” Coleman said.
He went on to work 46 years as a coach and administrator, 43 in Georgia and three in Florida. He coached in the 1982 Georgia All-Star football game and was named assistant track coach of the year in 1970. He was twice named athletics director of the year by the Georgia Athletics Directors Association.
Already in the FAMU hall of fame and part of the school’s centennial team, Coleman said he was surprised to gain similar recognition from home.
“It’s so exciting,” said Coleman, who lives in Savannah, Ga. “I never thought that Anniston or Calhoun County had a sports hall of fame. I just found out about it, I guess, two-and-a-half years ago.
“My cousin, Council Rudolph, got inducted, and he called me said, why wasn’t I inducted? I said, I didn’t know anything about it. He said, ‘I’m going to send you an application, and you send the information to me’.”
Coleman is a lost treasure of sorts, a great player who never touched the ball for a school that no longer exists. He says the real treasure was Mosby.
“It was very exciting playing for coach,” Coleman said. “He used to go to coaching clinics and learn new techniques, new terminology and new things that we could do to improve ourselves.”
“I learned a lot under Coach Mosby.”
Coleman said he essentially started coaching as a player under Mosby.
“Coach Mosby had a philosophy,” he said. “If you were a senior, you worked with a young guy when they came out for spring training at your position. He’d say, ‘You can take those kids and work with them.’
“Then, when I went to college, every summer, I’d come home, and when they’d start practice, I’d go out there and work out, and then I would coach. I’d go to coaches meetings and participate in the coaching and stuff and making the schedule.”
What Coleman learned helped him gain a shot to play professional football. He signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Oilers but was cut after one preseason game.
“I could have gone back the next year to a couple of other teams and tried again, but I started coaching and fell in love with coaching,” he said.
How much of what he did as a coach did he draw from Mosby?
“Most everything,” Coleman said. “They used to say I was Coach Mosby’s son.”
Among things Coleman carried into his coaching career was humor. When the situation called for it, he could turn a lesson into light-hearted embarrassment.
When a player asked a question where the obvious answer was no, Coleman would channel his mentor: “Does a duck have lips?”
“We were very close,” Coleman said of himself and Mosby. “I used to go by his house. When he first came to Cobb, I went by his house and introduced myself to him. Just working with him in high school and just admiring him and being around him.
“When I went to college, I’d come back and talk about football and just about education and philosophy, how to live and what do to right. Coach was a Christian man. He was a good example. He led by example. Good family man.”
Mosby was part of the inaugural Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Now, Coleman can give him another Father’s Day card of sorts --- his plaque on the same wall in the county administration building.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.