It’s unfortunate, unfair really, that Lawrence High senior Taylor Coleman is such a nice guy.
His 6-foot-3, 198-pound frame could be more useful if he were just a little meaner.
We’re not talking all-out hatred here. There’s no place for that in high school athletics. It just might behoove Coleman to be a little more fangs and a little less friendly when he’s out on the field.
“I smile too much to be angry,” Coleman said. “I’m trying. That just never really came. I can’t get mean. I can get angry, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be mean.”
Taking that approach would change the way Coleman plays the game and lives his life. Blessed with tremendous size and a huge heart, Coleman is the kind of player who will drive you into the turf with a perfect form tackle one minute and help you up and dust you off the very next.
“He’s a quality kid and he makes your day,” LHS football coach Dirk Wedd said. “At 7 a.m., it’s tough to walk into weights with smile on your face, but he does it. And he’s got such a bubbly personality that by the time we leave, everyone else is smiling with him.”
These days, there’s plenty for Coleman to smile about. For starters, the beginning of his senior season at LHS is a little more than two weeks away and, this year, after grinding it out on special teams for most of last season, he figures to have a bigger role in the overall success of the team.
“It’s exciting and it’s nerve-racking at the same time,” Coleman said. “That first Friday, we have to set the example for the younger guys and show them what’s supposed to be done. It’s going to be here before we know it.”
Coleman will be ready. In fact, many would say he already is.
After missing just a week of summer weight-lifting sessions during his junior year because of a Driver’s Ed obligation, Coleman bounced back this summer to put in perfect attendance in the weight room. When considering the busy summer schedule high school students are asked to keep, not missing a single day is quite the accomplishment. The way Coleman sees it, he’s just doing his job.
“When I was a sophomore I started lifting weights with the varsity. I wanted to be a part of the big show, I wanted to play on Fridays. And they told me then that if I wanted to do that that’s where it was at, none of that 9 o’clock stuff with the sophomores. And I just stuck with it.”
The way Wedd sees it, Coleman is doing everything a senior leader is expected to do — and then some. In addition to bringing life and determination to the weight room, the projected tight end and outside linebacker has put in work on his own to improve all aspects of his game. The most obvious area where Coleman has mined improvement has been in terms of how fast he gets from here to there.
“He’s improved his speed tremendously,” Wedd said. “That’s probably the biggest thing he’s improved, we always knew he’d hit you and now he’s got the speed to go with it.”
Making himself faster was a process that began in the spring, when Coleman chose to join the LHS track team.
“He went out for track, not to be a great track guy, but to improve his speed,” Wedd said. “He did everything we asked of him and it’s really paid off.”
There were days when doing what his coaches asked wasn’t so great. Quite a few, in fact. But, with football on his mind, Coleman pushed on, just like he’s done this summer at weights.
“That’s pretty much the only way I went to track practice. Every time I went, they reminded me that it was all leading up to football,” Coleman said.
Football relating to life
That mindset is one that the LHS senior took with him into other aspects of his life this summer, all in the name of football.
“I like to joke around with my friends and say that everything we do plays a role in how we’ll do this season,” Coleman said. “Me and some buddies went out and baled some hay and it was hot, so we figured, ‘Hey, this might help us out.’ I came from the pool one day with another friend and his tire was flat and we had to change it. It took us like an hour and it was scorching that day, too. So we were like, ‘You know what, if we’re not good this year, something’s wrong.’ We just put everything into football.”
Eventually, Coleman’s hoping that football will begin to give back. Whether the debt is paid off in victories for the Lions this season on the team’s brand new, on-campus home field or down the road in the form of a college scholarship, Coleman will have his eyes open and will be ready to jump on any opportunity that comes his way. After entering his junior season as a relative unknown, he’s made enough progress this summer to catch the eyes of a handful of college recruiters from around the area. So impressed with Coleman’s size, skills and attitude at a team camp earlier this summer were the Emporia State coaches that the Hornets’ staff began pursuing the prospect shortly thereafter.
“As a junior, he probably improved as much from Day 1 to the last game of the year as anyone we had,” Wedd said. “And he hasn’t stopped there.”
The ESU coaching staff’s interest in him was flattering and Coleman can’t help but smile when talking about it. “It’s real cool to know that someone’s looking at you and thinking, ‘This kid might be able to play for us,’” he said.
Despite the early look, Coleman plans to keep his options open. He might not know what level he wants to play at or how far he’d be willing to go to play, but he does know that he wants football in his life for a while longer.
“I definitely want to play in college,” he said. “I don’t know where right now, but a good one. I want to keep thinking that I can go as big as I want until I can’t.”