B.J. Coleman is a member of the Green Bay Packers organization, even if he doesn't suit up for games. He's one of eight members of the Packers' practice squad, and in effect he's Green Bay's No. 3 quarterback.
The former McCallie and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout practices with the team and attends every game. You could see him sitting next to reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers at one point during last Sunday's game on NBC. During practice, Rodgers catches his passes during individual drills.
"That's pretty cool," said Coleman, who was drafted by the Packers in the seventh round in April.
Life on an NFL practice squad varies from team to team and position to position. You're as close as you can get to your dream of playing in the NFL, yet it also might seem like you're standing at the base of Mount Everest. In a typical week, practice squad players work Wednesday through Saturday; the base salary is $5,700 a week.
"It's tough not being [on the active roster], but at the same time you're learning from one of the best coaches [Mike McCarthy] in the league and one of the best players in Aaron," Coleman said. "To earn their respect really means something."
Coleman is one of a couple of local players or former Mocs who made practice squads after 2012 training camps. Wide receiver Tim Benford, a former Red Bank and Tennessee Tech star, is on the Dallas Cowboys' squad. Linebacker Rico Council, of Howard and Tennessee State, attended training camp with the Atlanta Falcons and also spent time on the Tennessee Titans' practice squad.
Former UTC defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris didn't sign with anyone until the start of training camp, when the Cincinnati Bengals brought him in due to numerous injuries in their secondary. Lewis-Harris not only earned a spot on the practice squad but also played on special teams in week 4 at Jacksonville.
Lewis-Harris spends some of his time working as a member of the scout team, as a cornerback and sometimes as a receiver. At corner, the 5-foot-10 Lewis-Harris often has to match up against 6-4 All-Pro receiver A.J. Green.
"I think it's helped me improve and home in on my technique," Lewis-Harris said of being on the practice squad. "At the level [Green] is, and the rest of our receivers, I get tested every day and I have to get better to compete against those guys."
After being waived by the Titans on Nov. 20, 12 days after being signed, Council has remained in Nashville. He's working out and waiting for another team to call, whether it's for this season or next.
"I'm just staying ready," he said. "My agent's working on some things, but I'm just waiting to see what happens."
According to NFL.com's roster lists, there are 82 active quarterbacks this week. Coleman is one of eight quarterbacks on an NFL practice squad. His situation is different in that Coleman works as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Rodgers and No. 2 Graham Harrell. Whatever Harrell does, Coleman does.
"We have periods that are scout periods, which Graham and I split," he said. "Graham and I do the exact same thing, but he's active and I'm not."
That little difference is all the difference, both in terms of an opportunity to play and on payday. Coleman remains optimistic about his future in the league and said during his time in Green Bay he's improved in "every capacity."
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh 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 ...