Derrick Coleman admits that while growing up, “I wanted to be a running back like Marshawn Lynch.” Now the tailback-turned-fullback is helping Lynch as his lead blocker for the Seahawks.
As a tailback at Troy High School in Fullerton, Calif., and then UCLA, Derrick Coleman had a plan that bordered on a vision and was rooted in a dream.
“Growing up I wanted to be a running back like Marshawn Lynch,” Coleman said with a smile while standing in a hallway outside the Seahawks’ locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Instead, Coleman has become the work-in-progress lead blocker for the Seahawks’ Beast Mode tailback.
He’s still trying to figure out just how this has happened, as he transitions from being the ball carrier to blocking for the ball carrier. Has it sunk in yet, as Coleman prepares for his third game as a NFL fullback in Sunday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field?
“Not so much yet,” Coleman said. “But I’m just glad to still be playing football. That’s one thing I love to do. And whatever I can do to help the team, I’m doing it right now.
“But it hasn’t really sunk in so much yet. When it does, I’ll let you know.”
That Coleman is not only doing it, but doing it for the Seahawks was the biggest surprise among the decisions that where made when the Seahawks trimmed their roster from 75 to 53 players on Aug. 31 because he was retained over incumbent Michael Robinson. Surprising, at least from the outside looking in.
It was Sherman Smith, the Seahawks’ original running back who now coaches the position, who was perhaps the first to see that Coleman has what it takes to develop into a good fullback in this league. And Smith made that startling assessment early in training camp. It is Smith who now says that one of the things Coleman has going for him is that he’s a better athlete than Robinson, who played in the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season.
“Derrick is doing great,” Smith said. “He started his second game as a fullback last week – as a fullback. He’s never played fullback before and he’s doing a really nice job. He’s going to be a very good player for us.
“Taking nothing away from Mike Rob, but Derrick’s a better athlete. That’s a plus. And Derrick has a lot of pluses going for him.”
There’s more to what Coleman is doing in his new role than just running through the line with Lynch behind him. As it turns out, blocking for the tailback involves a lot of things Coleman always did as the tailback – except that he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.
“Basically, I want to block almost like, ‘If I was the tailback where would I go?’ ” Coleman said. “When we run inside, I read the linemen. I have a specific guy (to block). But it’s also, ‘If the runner’s not going to go there, why would I go there?’ ”
Besides, things rarely – if ever – look the same once the ball is snapped as they did while studying video or the playbook.
“When we go out there, it’s all about adapting,” Coleman said. “You’ve got to adapt to certain things. We may think it’s going to one thing but it can come out completely different. The good thing about us is we just read it like a running back and we’ll be fine.”
And if anyone knows about adapting, it’s Coleman. He has been legally deaf since he was 3, so there’s been that lifelong adjustment. Now, there’s this whole fullback thing he’s dealing with.