Johnathan Coleman had this dream of one day playing big-time college football. There was one gaping problem with that dream: The reality was that Coleman had never played high-school football until this season.
That didn't stop Boston College, an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse, from reaching out to the 6-4, 210-pound Radnor High senior receiver and offering him a full football scholarship next fall. Coleman committed to BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski yesterday, before taking the train back home to Radnor last night.
He now finds himself living a football fairytale.
"I knew what they wanted and I knew something would work out, but I didn't think that it would be this big," said Coleman, who led Radnor with 34 catches for 489 yards and seven touchdowns this season. "It just happened. I didn't even think about it. When they offered me, I accepted. They graduate 96 percent of their football players. It really is kind of unbelievable, from where I started with this and where I am now."
Radnor coach Tom Ryan deserves a lot of credit for Coleman's move. It was Ryan who sent out tapes of Coleman to every college he could contact. When Ryan called Boston College a few weeks ago, BC receivers coach Ryan Day called back.
"I showed them a highlight tape of Johnathan and sold them on the character kid that he is," Ryan said. "BC really did a lot of homework on Johnathan in a short amount of time. We spent the weekend at Boston College and they offered him a full scholarship and Johnathan gave him a verbal."
Coleman is still learning the game, but his athleticism (a 35-inch vertical leap, 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash) made him very attractive to a number of schools. But BC was the only major Division I program that made the extra step and offered him a full scholarship. Boston College, according to Ryan, projects Coleman as a receiver.
What makes Coleman's trek into the big-time world of college football is his amazing back story. He lives in the Bronx, N.Y., 3 months of the year, but attends Radnor through a residential program called "A Better Chance," a program that gives inner-city children with strong academics an opportunity to attend elite-academic suburban schools.
He comes from a rough background. He never knew his father, and his mother was incarcerated for a time in his youth before changing her life around.
When he was young, Coleman would bounce from one small apartment to another, before his maternal grandparents interceded and took him in, eventually leading to Radnor - and now Boston College.
Coleman will be the first member of his family to ever attend college.
"It's important to me, because hopefully I can start a line in my family who starts to go to college," Coleman said. "All I have to do is put the work in and do it. It's sinking in, and I'm kind of happy that this is over. It just proves what hard work can do.
"I have to give a lot of credit to coach Ryan for pushing me. My mother and my grandparents were happy, and they're happy that I get to go to college for free. I really didn't see myself at a big school like this. It does make you believe anything can happen, and dreams can come true." *