Coleman’s return puts spring in Tigers’ step
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Apr 12, 2012 | 7425 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — Shon Coleman participated in football practice Wednesday.

So did dozens of other Auburn football players, but Coleman’s appearance in the Tigers’ 12th practice of spring brought lots of smiles.

“It was great, man,” wide receiver Trovon Reed said. “My last time seeing Shon in a uniform was in the (U.S. Army) All-American game.

“To see a kid fight off cancer — because my mom died of cancer — so to see a kid fight off cancer?”

Coleman’s return comes just a week after former Tiger Jawara White had to give up football after sustaining an unspecified injury. The injury was believed to be similar to the neck injury that threatened his career in 2010.

Coleman signed with Auburn in 2010, and the former five-star offensive lineman appeared headed for instant playing time. His football career quickly moved to the back burner when doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

He has spent more than two years battling the disease and working his way back into some semblance of football shape.

His status coming into spring practice was uncertain, but doctors cleared him this week. He participated in his first Auburn practice Wednesday morning in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Practice, including an abbreviated scrimmage, was closed to the public, and Coleman will not be available for interviews until Friday. Teammate Jeff Whitaker said Coleman had a “big smile.”

Auburn coach Gene Chizik called Coleman’s first practice a “great thing” but hinted that Coleman’s participation was limited.

“We’re going to take baby steps,” Chizik said. “We’re going to follow exactly what the orders are from our medical staff. We’re not going to predict anything right now. We’re going to get him acclimated.

“He’s worked extremely hard to get to this point.”

Rivals.com ranked Coleman as the No. 3 offensive tackle prospect in the country in 2010. He was reported to be 6-foot-7, 285 pounds when he signed with Auburn out of Olive Branch (Miss.) High School.

He went through offseason workouts but was not included on Auburn’s spring roster. He was not on the latest roster, dated April 9, but an Auburn spokesman said a list submitted by strength coach Kevin Yoxall had Coleman at 295 pounds.

But Coleman’s weight and relative development as a player hardly mattered Wednesday. What mattered was having him in uniform and practicing after battling a serious illness.

“We think it’s hard, running the wrong route and Coach Chiz coming and screaming at us,” Reed said. “We get down about that, and this kid has fought off cancer.

“That’s real life, so we’re so proud to see him out there. I can’t even say.”

Reed and Whitaker lost their mothers to cancer and tried to keep Coleman’s spirits up over the past two years

“He had a lot of days he had a frown on his face,” Reed said. “Without football, he’s not happy.

“Now that he’s got it back, he couldn’t stop smiling today. (Auburn offensive line coach Jeff) Grimes was fussing at him, and he was still smiling.”

Whitaker said Coleman “is looking good out there. It’s a blessing just to have him out there.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

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