|« College Football Ghosts Rattle Around 85-year old Yankee Stadium||Towson FB Player Fights for Future after Facing Drug Charges »|
Head FB Coach Coleman Preaches Success at UAPB
Changes are in the mix for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions.
The Golden Lions’ successful recruiting class and eight returning starters will be the beginnings for new head coach Monte Coleman. Coleman is the same retired Washington Redskin linebacker who won three Super Bowl rings and played in the National Football League for 16 seasons.
Upon retirement, Coleman said he was denying himself of his true calling. As legendary as he’s become in the sport that he now coaches, Coleman is also a prominent minister in the Assemblies of God denomination.
“I was actually coming back to Pine Bluff to be a minister, then an opportunity here became available and I came on board,” Coleman said. “My first hope is for winning football games. I’m not used to losing. I especially want to win when I’m on the football field, but it takes players being disciplined. As a football team, if we put discipline in every thing we do, we can have some major accomplishments.”
Last season the Golden Lions came away with a disappointing 4-7 overall record, but with a new coach comes a newly adopted theme, “The Pride Is Back,” to kick off the 2008 season that begins at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. The Golden Lions will play in-state nine times this year, including two trips to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, first to face the University of Central Arkansas, which coincidentally is Coleman’s almamater, and then Grambling State University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“I’m excited about the opportunity with this team,” Coleman said. “They have a whole lot of talent, but they should have scored more points. Sometimes on paper everything looks great and builds confidence. With this team, they look extremely good on paper.”
Senior quarterback Jonathan Moore won’t be inexperienced under center. He and former quarterback Chris Wallace swapped snaps and Moore was said to have “looked sharp” in spring drills. Moore threw for 914 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Moore will be challenged at quarterback with freshmen Gvona Turner of Crossett and Raphael Sears of Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas.
Senior Martell Mallett from Pine Bluff and junior Mickey Dean from Little Rock Central return an 85-yard rushing average per game to the Golden Lions backfield. Mallett rushed for only 542 yards in 2007 after breaking in the SWAC with 1,104 yards as a sophomore. Dean was the SWAC Freshman of the Year and rushed for 400 yards last year. The big drop-off in rushing - Dean missed much of 2006 with injury, leading to Mallett’s breakout year - could be attributed to a completely new offensive line last season dominated by freshmen and transfers.
“We’ve got a young offensive line, but I’ve been pleased with their progression last spring,” Coleman said. “If they compete every weekend like they’re capable of, we will win some games.”
Sophomore tackles Jason Thomas and Brandon Ford return to anchor the offensive line that also includes seniors Terrance Billings at guard and Jordan Lowe at center. Junior Jermaine Godbolt, who played at Feather River Junior College, was one of the most sought-after junior college linemen and figures to have an immediate impact up front.
The Golden Lion receivers are led by the 2007 SWAC Newcomer of the Year, senior Bruce Peters from Compton (Calif.) Junior College. Peters caught nine passes for 115 yards and averaged 12.8 yards a catch. Sophomore Raymond Webber and senior Ryan Whatley, a product of Pine Bluff High School, form a dangerous receiving trio with Peters.
All American defensive end candidate Ledarious Anthony, who was a second-team All-SWAC selection last year, racked up 66 tackles in 10 games and had 8.6 sacks and 11 more tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Senior Aaron Hence and junior Kenneth Leichman play the defensive tackle positions up front for the Golden Lions’ defense and registered 40-plus tackles each.
UAPB’s other All American defender is senior linebacker Tim Turner. Turner had a team high 122 tackles last season, including seven stops behind the line of scrimmage and was named to the All-SWAC first team last season.
Junior Michael Witherspoon anchors the other linebacker position for the Golden Lions, while strong safety John Keith returns in the secondary after having 102 stops last year. Senior free safety Stewart Franks was a second-team All-SWAC player from last year with 56 tackles and three interceptions.
At press time, there was a possibility that former University of Arkansas linebacking starter Freddie Fairchild, a Little Rock Central product, would transfer to UAPB and have immediate eligibility.
The Golden Lions’ special team kick returners are Peters and sophomore Trey Austin. Austin had an 88-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown in UAPB’s homecoming game against Prairie View A&M.
“Our season depends on if our senior class can produce for us,” Coleman said. “It’s all about them doing it on the field. I have all the confidence in the world in our offensive coordinator, but I told him to save me some room for hidden plays. We like to throw the ball and we’ve got a full arsenal of talented personnel.”
Coleman is also the Golden Lions’ defensive coordinator.
“I work closely with the defensive staff based on who we have,” Coleman said. “The things we worked on in the off-season are encouraging. They are going to do some great things this year and we’re going to do it one game at a time, but all of it involves hard work.”
Coleman the Man
UAPB coach Monte Coleman was a kicker for the Pine Bluff Zebras and was hurt in the first junior varsity game during his senior year, his only attempt at prep football. The Pine Bluff native followed his talented older brother, Sam, and walked on at the University of Central Arkansas. Soon he put some meat on his skinny frame, became one of the fastest linebackers in college football and made NAIA All-American.
He became the first Bear in UCA history to be drafted into the National Football League.
His rÉsumÉ reads like a lesson on how to play football. Coleman set a school record with 22 interceptions at UCA in his senior year and went to the Redskins in the 11th round of the 1979 draft as the 289th overall selection.
Coleman played for the Redskins for more than three decades and currently ranks second in the Washington organization to have played 217 games. He is one of only three men to play at least 16 seasons with the franchise and has the fourth-highest sack total at 56.5.
Coleman played in Super Bowls XVII, XVIII, XXII and XXVI. He was named as one of the 70 greatest players in Redskins’ history and was named to the All-Madden Team in 1993.
With all of his football greatness, Coleman’s heart was in ministry.
“My football career was great, but I was in denial,” Coleman said. “Ever since I was in college there was part of me that was running from what the Lord was wanting me for. When I came here I got more involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes here on campus and I knew that being a minister was my calling.
“Even as a high school kid, I knew I was different than the others. I went down the college road at UCA and in the pros matured with men like Marcus Monk. Like the Bible says, ‘Iron sharpens iron and men sharpen men.’ Those men sharpened me.”
From the ex-professional football player point of view, Coleman says of his team, “As a ball player, we’re going to hit them in the mouth and be very aggressive and very competitive, but as the Christian men we are, then we’re going to help them up.”
Coleman Preaches Success at UAPB
by Martin Couch, Arkansas Sports 360
Photo Credit: UAPB Sports Information