Canton could call on Coleman


When the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony commences next Saturday, Monte Coleman will have just finished conducting his first practice of the season with his fifth Arkansas-Pine Bluff team.

He hasn’t been invited to Canton, Ohio, yet. This would have been a good time for him to skip practice for a weekend to remember, especially since another Pine Bluff person is going.

Yeah, I’ll be there, but I meant Willie Roaf.

Just as amazing to some that now two Hall-of-Famers had solid prep careers at Pine Bluff High School — ever heard of Don Hutson? — is how another Pine Bluff graduate didn’t play football until college. This same guy somehow got picked up by the Washington Redskins, made the team and stayed on it through 16 seasons and three Super Bowl championships.

Of course, it has to be more than just that to get Coleman into the Hall of Fame, right?

“Anybody with multiple championship rings and the skills and the contributions he made to the Redskins, I think he definitely qualifies, and hopefully one day soon, he’ll get invited for that ceremony,” UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. said. “It would be a deserving honor for him.”

One can start with Coleman’s numbers as a linebacker for consideration: 56.5 sacks, fourth-most in Redskins history; 1,009 tackles and three touchdowns. His 216 games played was a team record until Darrell Green broke it in 1997.

A common question in considering a player for the Hall is: How did he stand out from others at his position? For Coleman, it’s about more than just standing out.

“It’s not based on what I think,” Coleman said of selection. “I think the thing the committee should do is consider if you were the best at what (you) did. I was considered one of the first nickel linebackers to cover Walter Payton and other good skill players in the league. I was considered the best nickel linebacker in the league.”

To explain, Coleman was a linebacker in a five-defensive back set. In his eyes, many linebackers have become more like defensive ends.

“When linebackers stopped being linebackers and played as defensive ends, the whole concept of a linebacker went out the window,” he said. “I covered, I blitzed, I played hard for 16 years.”

Coleman said what he thinks voters should look for in a Hall candidate. By his standard, which is pretty high, he qualifies.

But that still didn’t generate a “yes” or “no” when he was asked if he belongs in Canton. “I don’t know,” he gently answered. That’s only an example of his humbleness.

Whatever aspect of Coleman’s game needs to be considered for Hall selection, a “yes” for Coleman shouldn’t be much farther from the voters’ minds than the 18 years since he last played.

I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at imurrell@pbcommercial.com.