Inside Corey Coleman’s journey from first-round NFL pick to USFL standout

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It was the spring of 2016 in Chicago, and Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman found himself waiting patiently in the green room of the NFL Draft in Grant Park, hoping to hear his name called by the draft commissioner. NFL Rodger Goodell.

A dynamic, playmaking wide receiver with blistering speed, Coleman was fresh off a record-breaking season at Baylor where he torched Big 12 opponents with 74 catches for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. He had worked out for several NFL teams that had to pick in the middle of the first round and was anxiously waiting to find out where the opening chapter of his professional football career would begin.

“I knew I was going in the first round, but I thought I was going to Houston at No. 20,” said Coleman, who joined FOX Sports college football analyst. RJ Young as a guest this week on his podcast, “The number one college football show with RJ Young.” “I talked to the coaches all week leading up to the draft. They came to Baylor, I met with the whole organization, so I thought that’s where I was going.”

Corey Coleman’s journey to the USFL

Corey Coleman's journey to the USFL

RJ Young is joined by Philadelphia Stars receiver Corey Coleman, who discusses his journey as a first-round NFL draft pick and his success in the USFL.

To Coleman’s surprise, it was the Cleveland Browns who traded up to No. 15 and selected the speedster. Two weeks later, Coleman would sign a four-year, $11.65 million contract with the Browns and the start of his NFL journey was officially underway.

Coleman’s NFL career started with a bang as he had two catches for 69 yards in a Week 1 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, then followed that up with an impressive five-catch, 104-yard outing and two touchdowns against Baltimore. Ravens in week 2.

The 2015 All-American lived up to his billing, adding excitement to an NFL franchise coming off a 3-13 campaign that hadn’t won games by double digits since 2007.

But then Coleman broke his hand in practice before a Week 3 matchup against the Miami Dolphins and was ruled out for 4-6 weeks. He would return to the field in November, but never fully returned to form as he did not record more than 41 receiving yards in any game the rest of the season.

The following season, Coleman got off to a strong start again, torching the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary for five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. But unfortunate circumstances struck again, as the former No. first round he broke the same hand. he was injured the year before, this time requiring surgery that would sideline him for another 6-8 weeks. Once again, Coleman returned to action at the end of the season, but he was never the same.

After requesting a trade before the 2018 season, Coleman spent the next two years bouncing around, though he only saw action with the New York Giants (eight games, 2018). After being released by the Chiefs prior to the 2022 NFL season, Coleman made the decision to sign with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars in February 2023, which has led to a thriving relationship for both parties.

While playing in the USFL wasn’t where Coleman envisioned his career when he was drafted by the Browns in the first round in 2016, he has been pleasantly surprised by the experience and competition throughout the league.

“There is talent in the USFL,” Coleman said. “There are some guys who can really drive.”

At 5-foot-11 with blazing speed and elite playmaking ability, Coleman is definitely one of those guys. Heading into Week 7 of the USFL season, Coleman ranks third in the league in receptions (30) and yards (334). He just finished with a six-catch, 76-yard outing for the Stars in a 16-10 win over the New Orleans Breakers.

Coleman is quick to credit one of his teammates, Amani Dennis, a defender Coleman faces in practice every week.

“I just remember, at camp, we were going,” Coleman said of his relationship with Dennis. “I go at it, giving it everything I’ve got, and I always say, ‘Hey, this is going to pay off.'”

While Dennis gets credit for helping Coleman develop on the practice field, it’s the Philadelphia Stars organization that holds a special place in Coleman’s heart.

“I just want to thank them for giving me a chance,” Coleman said. “They gave me a chance to come here and really show that I can still play this game at a high level.”

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