In life, when opportunity knocks on your door it’s very important to open it. So with that being said when opportunity knocked on the door of Jets DE Kenyon Coleman 20 million times, he made sure to answer.
There hasn’t been many bright spots for the Jets defense this season. During the week one 38-14 loss to the Patriots the one player that stood out on the defensive side of the ball was DE Kenyon Coleman. Coleman recorded 12 tackles against the Patriots, which were a team high and a career high. He followed that performance by recording four tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.
“I am really happy with Kenyon's performance. He's been a great addition in terms of the locker room and the value he adds there,” said head coach Eric Mangini. “I have been pleased with Kenyon throughout his time here.”
Coleman has impressed the Jets coaches so much during the free agency period that they offered him a five-year deal worth $20 million dollars. The Jets, must have seen something they really liked in Coleman because the Jets don’t usually dish out big money to unrestricted free agents. Also Coleman has never been a starter before, wherever he's played he's been a part time player. The Jets really put Coleman high on their wish list after meeting with Bill Parcells his former head coach in Dallas.
While Coleman wouldn’t say publicly the exact reasons why he thought the Jets brought him here and why they gave him such a large contract for not haven a proven track record in the NFL. However, Coleman did say what he thought the Jets front office liked about him and why he thought the Jets brought him here.
“I think they liked that I had pass rush ability and that I could also play the run,” Coleman said. “I think that is why they wanted me here. But I will continue to do the things they ask me to do. If they ask me to pass rush, I’ll pass rush.”
“I think they can say that fairly. Just because most of my career I was a backup. So I can understand where they are coming from. But I glad the coaching staff here saw something else. “I just want to come out contribute and do what I do best,” Coleman added.
Coleman is entering his fifth season in the NFL and before this season he has appeared in only 57 games, while only starting five. Coleman spent his last four NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. The Alta Loma, CA native spent his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders, as they selected him in the fifth round (147th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft.
This off-season General Manager Mike Tannenbaum made it a point to improve the defensive line. Along with Coleman, Tannenbaum brought in DE’s Michael Haynes, Bobby Hamilton, and Eric Hicks. Along with competing with the other new talent brought in, the Jets already had veterans Kimo von Oelhoffen and Shaun Ellis.
““Personally I didn’t set any statistical goals. My goal was just to come out work hard and give my best every day,” said Coleman.
And Coleman did just that as he ended up beating out Haynes and Hamilton to gain a spot on the Jets 53 man roster. Coleman even silenced the critics that criticized the size of his five-year deal he signed in March.
During the off-season when the Jets were looking into signing the 6-foot-5, 295 pound defensive end, Tannenbaum and head coach Eric Mangini sought out the thoughts of Parcells his former coach in Dallas. Before signing Coleman, Tannenbaum and Mangini spent a lot of time with future Hall of Fame coach Parcells to talk about Coleman as a person and how he would fit into the Jets new 3-4 defense. Parcells must have given Coleman a good recommendation because after speaking with him is when the Jets decided to offer a big contract to Coleman.
“Then with our familiarity with Bill [Parcells], and in talking to him and spending time with him, Coleman was a person that we obviously liked very much in free agency,” Mangini said.
"And the one thing about Bill is that if he didn't like you, you weren't going to be around very long. I was very fortunate and very blessed. I was in Dallas for four years, so for Bill to do that, I really appreciated it," Coleman added.
What made the Jets a perfect fit for Coleman was the 3-4 defense Mangini was installing. Coleman was playing in a 3-4 defense in Dallas which is similar to the Jets. So when Coleman was deciding who to sign with, he chose the Jets over the Cleveland Browns.
“Obviously Bill [Parcells] and Mangini had a relationship, so when it came down to the two teams I know what I was getting,” Coleman said. “Wherever you go, you don’t always know what you’re going to get. I think another factor was the team did well last year.”
And perfect it was. Not only do the Jets have a system that caterer to the strengths of Coleman, he has also become a leader in the locker room. Along with being one of the last ones out of the weight room day in and day out, Coleman has also developed a strong bond with his teammates in the short while he has been here.
“It struck me that he had a good relationship, not just with the defensive line very early on, but with the whole group,” Mangini said. “He's a guy that does spend time with a lot of different areas. It's not specifically just hanging out with the defensive linemen.”
“He never had the “new guy” label. Once he came here we accepted him as one of the guys,” said Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis. “We help each other out. Once I see him do something, I go do it too. And when he sees me doing something, he’ll start doing it too.”
Unlike most athletes who have tried to play in New York, Coleman is not fazed by the pressure. In a city the takes in and spits out professional athletes whole, Coleman is just glad to have an opportunity to play and make an impact.
“I’m just glad to have an opportunity here. I am starting and getting a good amount of playing time for the first time in my career,” Coleman said. “I just do my role on defense and I do what I can.”