Coleman’s quick decision making key for SumrallBy CAMAL PETRO,
The Sumrall football program has been building for the 2018 season for a couple of years now. The Bobcats have had a handful of players from the 2019 graduating class start since their freshman and sophomore years, and with their experience, Sumrall has improved every season.
A lot of Sumrall’s upward trajectory has to do with senior Nijewel Coleman’s play on the defensive side of the ball.
“This senior class is very special,” Coleman said. “We have a lot of weapons and a lot of experience, playing since ninth grade.”
The 6-foot, hard-hitting safety has led the Bobcats in tackles the last three seasons, collecting nearly 300 total tackles in his career. As a freshman, he had 79 tackles, then added 101 his sophomore year before picking up 118 in 2017.
There’s more in the tank, too.
“A previous coach, he told me when I was in ninth grade and I led the team, ‘Why not do it for four years?’ I’ve been trying to (lead the team in tackles) ever since,” Coleman said. “It a lot of work and my teammates help me out.”
Essentially, Coleman is the centerfielder of the defense. Sumrall coach Shannon White says Coleman’s ability to read whether it’s a pass or run play allows him to play a little further away from the line of scrimmage. From his free safety position, he quickly diagnoses the play, then sprints up to make the tackle or sits in coverage to break up a pass.
“It’s amazing how fast he gets to the line of scrimmage or near the line of scrimmage to make plays,” White said. “That’s why he has so many tackles. He just has a knack for deciding if it’s a run or pass and getting to the right place at the right time.”
His ability to see the play unfold allows him to play the safety position for the Bobcats, as opposed to more of a linebacker role. White said Coleman would really excel at outside linebacker, but he’s so good as the free safety, White would hate to move him down during his senior season.
“I can see the play develop,” Coleman said matter-of-factly.
As a junior, Coleman forced three fumble recoveries and intercepted three passes to go along with his 118 tackles. He also added two fumble recoveries. If he had to choose, he’d rather force a fumble than record an interception.
“Because when you hit them, you make them fumble the ball,” Coleman said. “An interception, you just catch it like you’re on offense. You hit them and make them fumble. It makes a difference.”
A part of the talented senior class, Coleman has high expectations for his final season in a Sumrall uniform.
“We’ve been working hard lately,” he said. “We wake up really early in the morning. Weights early in the morning and sprints. This has been the hardest offseason that we’ve gone through. This is our year and we’ve been waiting for this year for a long time, so we’re really building hard for this year.”