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April 21, 2009COLUMBUS, Ohio - For the past two seasons, Kurt Coleman has quietly played his role on the back end of the Ohio State defense, while big-name players like James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins have led the way for the Buckeyes on the field.
While both Laurinaitis and Jenkins are headed for the NFL, Coleman chose to follow in their footsteps by returning to school for his senior season at Ohio State. It's a decision Coleman says he has not regretted at all.
"A lot of guys that you came here with and are really close with are going through it and they're kind of stressed," he said. "It's time, it's almost time, and I'm just fortunate I'm not in that position. I can have still have fun."
Coleman, who enters his third season as the Buckeyes' starter at strong safety, was not able to have as much fun as he would have liked early on in spring practice as he was sidelined by an ankle injury that kept him out until late last week.
"Two weeks ago I rolled my ankle," Coleman said. "You put so much work in and just the slightest injury can hold you out."
While he was itching to get back on the field with his teammates, Coleman made the most of his time off the field by working with some of the younger defensive backs like Orhian Johnson, Jermale Hines and even freshman C.J. Barnett.
"It's good because these two weeks I've kind of spent time just coaching and helping out the guys who really needed the help instead of me getting out there," Coleman said.
"It's been a really fun experience to help coach."
As a fellow alum of Clayton Northmont High School near Dayton, Coleman admits to spending extra time working with Barnett, who has been repping at cornerback with the third-team defense. Much like Coleman coming out of high school, the physical tools are there for Barnett, and now it's just working on learning what it takes mentally to play defensive back at the college level.
"One thing I see a lot of DBs come in and they're quick with their backpedal but they're not fluid with it or coming out of their breaks," Coleman said. "[C.J.] and I worked on that a lot. Right now it's just a mental part of the game for him, and after that he'll be just fine."
Mentoring young players has been something that's always come easy to Coleman, but it's been especially important to him this spring as he looks to take over the leadership role from guys like Laurinaitis, Jenkins and Marcus Freeman.
"I aspire to be a coach and a teacher, so every time you get a chance to go out there and learn from somebody, you kind of learn about yourself," Coleman said. "You kind of want to get out there and teach yourself. It's a learning point when I can get out there coaching and I can learn some things on my own."
Although he is listed at just 5 feet 11 and 188 pounds, Coleman plays much bigger. He finished third on team with 78 tackles and led the Buckeyes with four interceptions last season. He also broke up four passes and recovered a fumble.
But he passed up a chance to play in the NFL to improve on those numbers, as well as his team's performance, in 2009.
It is obvious to Coleman's coaches and teammates that he has taken his leadership to a new level this spring, and if that means he ends up as a captain this fall, it is something he would embrace.
"I would love to be and it's an honors," Coleman said. "I think whenever you're put into a senior role, [leadership] is kind of bestowed upon you. You kind of have to step into it and just take it. It's an honor for people to think of me like that."