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Local colleges

Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis’ Austin Coleman owns the all-time NAIA record for kickoff returns for touchdowns.

USF star eager for tryout

Impressed Seattle with speed, ability as return specialist

Coleman posted an official time of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his pro day at Ball State.

– Go figure, that when Austin Coleman’s cellphone rang late Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks representative on the other end asked Coleman what he was doing at that very moment.

“I told him I was just outside playing catch with my little brother and cousin,” Coleman said.

Perfect answer, because Coleman, the former Harding and Saint Francis standout, hopes he’ll be catching a lot of footballs in the years to come.

After the NFL draft concluded Saturday with the 254th selection, Coleman made sure to keep his phone at his side, just in case an NFL team was still interested in a 5-foot-8, 180-pound receiver.

The Seattle Seahawks were interested. And either May 8 or 9 – Coleman isn’t completely sure which day – the Seahawks will fly Coleman to Seattle for their rookie camp. Included will be Chris Harper, a wide receiver from Kansas State who was drafted in the fourth round.

“I’m extremely jacked,” Coleman said in a telephone interview. “I’m extremely jacked, and through the roof to this day. I’m anxious to get in camp and compete and show them that I was worthy of being a draft pick. I just want to get in there, go to work and hopefully make the 53-man roster.”

Coleman knew he was on the Seahawks’ radar, as he was with Detroit, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

As a receiver, in general, and return specialist, in particular, for Saint Francis, Coleman grabbed the attention of the NFL. He owns the all-time NAIA record for kickoff returns for touchdowns with eight. As a senior last season, he led the NAIA with 969 return yards and ranked fifth with 28.5 yards per attempt.

He also had 47 catches for 717 yards and seven touchdowns. For his career, Coleman had 21 touchdown receptions.

Seattle’s Midwest scout Jason Barnes, who helped the Seahawks sign former Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate, had seen plenty of Coleman, who posted an official time of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his pro day at Ball State.

“We had built a personal relationship,” Coleman said. “When he came to my school during the season, he told me they liked my return ability, my kickoff returns, my speed and breakaway ability – that once I got going no one could catch me.”

For the next week, until he’s summoned to Seattle, Coleman said he will continue to work on his game.

“I’m going to stay in shape, go there, and be in shape more than the other guys.”