Monte Coleman: The best is yet to come
By Derek Guilford
It’s a Cinderella story. One you wouldn’t ordinarily
believe. Monte Coleman’s life has played out like a script Hollywood wouldn’t
This man who didn’t play high school football joined one of
football’s greatest dynasties in NFL history. A man who walked on to his
college football team became its only player ever to be drafted into the NFL. A
man who wasn’t supposed to even play professionally became the longest-tenured
Washington Redskin in history. A man whose career spanned more than three
decades as he collected a trio of Super Bowl rings. A man who grew up in the
church loving God but whose faith faded until a critical moment when he needed
Him the most.
The product of a large, strong family unit, young Monte
learned early that faith is essential. But something was missing in his own
“I grew up in the church and was baptized, but wasn’t living
the life I should be living according to the Bible,” he says. “I was baptized a
sinner, and came out a wet sinner.”
One Tuesday night as a sophomore at the University of
Central Arkansas, Coleman rededicated his life to God at a Fellowship of
Christian Athletes service. But it was flash-in-the-pan faith.
After being selected in the 11th round of the NFL draft by
the Redskins, Coleman wasn’t expected to produce.
Chosen that late, “you’re usually only there for training
camp,” Coleman explains. “You’re not expected to make it; you’re just a body.”
Coleman would prove the skeptics wrong. He became a
consistent contributor, earning a starting spot soon into his career. But with
everything in his life apparently on track, he had no interest in faith.
“I was out there in the streets. I forgot about Christ. I
put Him on the backburner,” Coleman says. “I thought, Hey, I’m a pro now. I’m
on the Washington Redskins.”
With nothing to anchor his marriage, Coleman chose a path of
“My attraction Satan used as a trap was being with other
women,” Coleman explains. “It came to the point that I got divorced. It broke
After experiencing such emotional highs from success on the
football field, the setback in his personal life was especially hard. This is
the same man who would play in four Super Bowls in a 10-year span, winning three.
The same man who would rack up a total of 56.5 sacks and 17 interceptions in
his 16-year career as an NFL linebacker. The same man who was named to the
All-Madden Team in 1993 and made the list of the 70 Greatest Redskins in
franchise history. All this while falling short in his faith and watching his
But when the storybook side of Coleman’s life was brought up
short by his real-life crises, he began to shape up.
“I came back to my senses,” he says, “and I thank God I had
that upbringing, that I knew who Jesus Christ was. I knew exactly what I had to
come back to. It was back to Jesus Christ.”
Coleman rededicated his life to Christ and was baptized in
water and filled with the Holy Spirit on the same day.
Upon retirement, Coleman went into business. As vice
president of marketing for a computer supply company in Virginia, he made a
substantial salary. But something still wasn’t right. Coleman and his second
wife felt a call from God on their lives. God told them, says Coleman, to move
to Pine Bluff, Ark.
With his marketing background, Coleman’s desire was to
become assistant athletic director for a university. God had a different plan.
In 2001, Coleman was offered the position of linebacker coach for the
University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. Never feeling the aspiration to coach,
Coleman hesitated. Then he thought of the 90-plus college-aged young men he
could impact for Christ on a daily basis.
“It was like a light went on!” Coleman says.
God was obviously at work. Over the next five years, Coleman
would be promoted from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator along with the
title of team chaplain. He got to be an even bigger part of his players’ lives.
Coleman saw his young men grow not just in football, but also in Jesus.
“As chaplain, I really got a chance to start speaking into
their lives,” Coleman explains. Players would come to his office and openly
talk about their life challenges and pain.
“We’d cry together,” Coleman says. “We’d talk about life,
religion, football — we’d talk about everything. I really saw God
In November 2007, Coleman was named head football coach of
the university located just blocks from his childhood home. Today, he continues
to minister to his players on a daily basis.
“God gave me a second chance at life,” says Jermaine
Clemmons, senior defensive back. “Coach Coleman taught me how to get in the
Word, how to be an all-around better person and player. He’s been there for me
from day one. Even if I don’t progress and go to the next level and play, I’ve
learned how to be a man.”
Coleman is also an ordained minister and active in his local
church, Pine Bluff First Assembly of God led by Pastor Gary Bell. He holds
chapel services for the team every Saturday night.
“He’s spiritually strong,” says Alonzo Hampton, defensive
backs coach. “I’ve seen him emulate Christ in his life, and it has motivated me
in my own life.”
Coleman is patient in his walk of faith and confident that
what God has planned for his life is best.
“I just wait on Him,” he says. He also puts God first when it
comes to the gridiron. “Win or lose, all praise goes to God. He gave us the
ability to do this.”
The man who wore No. 51 during his playing days is now 51
years old and is following the path God opened for his life in 1999. Coleman is
comfortable with that plan. He knows he is following God’s will for his life,
trusting in Him to provide. The man of many titles — head coach,
defensive coordinator, chaplain, pastor, father, husband — has a lot to
be thankful for and believes the future is bright.
“I’m still growing,” he says. “I’m still learning in my walk
of faith with Christ. The journey’s not over yet.”
DEREK GUILFORD is a senior at Evangel University in
Springfield, Mo., and an intern with Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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