It was the spring of 2016 in Chicago, and Corey Coleman – the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner – found himself waiting patiently in the NFL Draft green room in Grant Park, waiting to hear his name called by NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell.
A dynamic and creative wide receiver with jaw-dropping speed, Coleman was fresh off a record-breaking season at Baylor, where he fired up 12 big opponents with 74 catches for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. He had worked for several NFL teams slated for mid-first round picks and was looking forward to finding out where the opening chapter of his pro football career would begin.
“I knew I was going to go in the first round, but I thought I was going to go to Houston at No. 20,” said Coleman, who joined FOX Sports’ college football analyst. young RJ as a guest this week on their podcast,”The number one college football show with RJ Young.” “I talked to the coaches all week leading up to the draft. They came to Baylor, I got together with the whole organization, so I thought that’s where I was going.”
Corey Coleman’s Journey to the USFL
RJ Young is joined by Philadelphia Stars receiver Corey Coleman, who talks about his journey as the first pick in the NFL draft and his achievements in the USFL.
To Coleman’s surprise, it was the Cleveland Browns who traded down to No. 15 and selected the sprinter. Two weeks later, Coleman would sign a four-year, $11.65 million contract with the Browns and the start of his NFL journey was officially underway.
Coleman’s NFL career started with a bang when he caught two receptions for 69 yards in a Week 1 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and then followed it up with an impressive five receptions, 104 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore. Ravens in week 2.
The 2015 All-American was living up to his billing, adding excitement to an NFL franchise that had gone 3-13 and hadn’t won double-digit games since 2007.
But then, Coleman broke his hand during practice leading up to the Week 3 match against the Miami Dolphins and was ruled out for 4-6 weeks. He would make his return to the field in November, but never fully returned to form, failing to record more than 41 receiving yards in any game for the remainder of the season.
The following season, Coleman got off to a hot start once again, igniting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary for five receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. But unfortunate circumstances ensued again, as the former first-round selection broke the same hand he had been injured the previous year, this time requiring surgery that would sideline him for another 6 to 8 weeks. Once again, Coleman returned to action towards the end of the season, but he was never the same.
After requesting a trade prior to the 2018 season, Coleman spent the next few years bouncing back, although he only saw action with the New York Giants (eight games, 2018). After being released by the Chiefs prior to the 2022 NFL season, Coleman made the decision to sign with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in February 2023, which led to a thriving relationship for both parties.
While playing in the USFL wasn’t where Coleman envisioned his career when he was selected by the Browns in the first round in 2016, he was pleasantly surprised by the experience and competition throughout the league.
“There is some talent in the USFL,” Coleman said. “There are some guys who can really play.”
At 1.70 m tall, with incredible speed and elite playing ability, Coleman is certainly one of those guys. Going into Week 7 of the USFL season, Coleman ranks third in the league in receptions (30) and receiving yards (334). He just came off a six-catch, 76-yard rush for the Stars in a 16-10 win over the New Orleans Breakers.
Coleman is quick to credit one of his teammates, Amani Dennis, a quarterback Coleman faces in practice every week.
“I just remember, at camp, we were doing this,” Coleman said of her relationship with Dennis. “I’m going for it, giving it everything I’ve got, and I’m always like, ‘Hey, this is going to be worth it.’
While Dennis is credited with helping Coleman develop on the practice field, it is the Philadelphia Stars organization that holds a special place in Coleman’s heart.
“I really want to thank them for giving me a chance,” Coleman said. “They’ve given me the opportunity to come in here and really show that I can still play this game at a high level.”
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