Seven hours of quiet anxiety erupted into a joyous celebration filled with cheers and tears at the Coleman house late Saturday afternoon.
Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman tuned into the third day of the NFL draft when it began at noon with the start of the fourth round. Then he and a small group of family and friends watched and waited as pick after pick was made.
Finally, in the seventh round, with pick No. 243 out of 253 in the draft, the Green Bay Packers gave Coleman a reason to smile as big as he ever has.
“It was absolutely worth the wait,” said Coleman, who threw for 6,871 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons at UTC. “It was tough but I think it was the best spot. I couldn’t have gone to a better team.”
Two former Red Bank High School stars also hooked up with NFL teams Saturday. Defensive back Jeremy Caldwell of Eastern Kentucky said he will sign with the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent, and Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford will sign with the Dallas Cowboys.
The Packers have a star quarterback in 2011 league MVP Aaron Rodgers, so Coleman will have a chance to learn and develop under one of the NFL’s best. Graham Harrell is expected to be Green Bay’s backup quarterback, and Coleman will compete for the No. 3 spot with the other quarterback on the roster, Nick Hill.
“I get to learn from a guy like Aaron Rodgers,” he said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
Coincidentally, Coleman trained for the NFL combine in Hattiesburg, Miss., and occasionally worked out with legendary former Packers QB Brett Favre.
Coleman bounced around to different rooms in the house Saturday as the hours and rounds passed without any of the 32 teams picking the 6-foot-3, 233-pounder. The house was often silent except for the sounds of ESPN’s many analysts going on and on about one pick or another.
Coleman’s father, Bryon, a former Moc himself, passed the time talking football and eating about a pound of peanuts, while mother Anita kept busy making sure everyone had enough to eat and drink. Brother Jarrod, a UTC tight end, took a nap at one point.
B.J. Coleman watched most of the final round in the basement TV room that is filled with pictures and memorabilia highlighting his career, from the McCallie days to Tennessee to UTC.
As the picks moved into the 240s and it looked like he might have to go the free-agent route, the Packers called. Coleman was upstairs at the time and called down to the small crowd in the TV room, which included former UTC teammates Joel Bradford and Sloan Allison, that the Packers were drafting him.
Moments before general manager Ted Thompson’s call, Coleman had been on the phone with the New York Giants, who wanted to talk to him about maybe being a free-agent signee.
“I was very stressed; I’ve been pacing the house all day, swapping from room to room — trying to swap the luck up — and having my closest friends here has been second to none,” Coleman said. “I feel phenomenal. To be drafted to the NFL, to get your name called, I got it put on national television; I’m a Green Bay Packer, man.
“I’m going to be wearing that green and gold, and it’s phenomenal.”
Mocs coach Russ Huesman was following the draft from his home and said he had a feeling the Packers might be the team because they had two picks in the final round.
“I was getting a little nervous there,” he said. “I never thought [about free agency] because I knew Pittsburgh had a bunch of picks and I knew Green Bay had some picks left. Those were ideal scenarios for him.”
Coleman’s selection gives UTC players drafted in back-to-back years for the first time since 1991-92. Cornerback Buster Skrine was drafted by the Cleveland Browns last year.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...