In January, Marco Coleman was a former NFL assistant coach out of a job and looking for a landing spot. Then fate opened a door for him at Georgia Tech. He walked through, into a job he loves and at a place he loves.
“This is truly a blessing; this isn’t work,” said Coleman, Tech’s coach for defensive ends and outside linebackers. “It’s hard to explain, but I enjoy it. I don’t mind getting up at 4:30, 5 o’clock every morning to come on over here. I can’t say that about too many things, that’s for sure.”
In his first pass through Tech, Coleman’s playing career was unlike few others to have played for the Yellow Jackets. In three seasons as an outside linebacker (1989-91), Coleman set school records (since broken) with 27.5 sacks and 50 tackles for loss and helped lead the Jackets to a share of the 1990 national championship. He was a first-team All-American as both a sophomore and junior, after which he became the No. 12 overall pick of the 1992 draft.
His second time through reflected perhaps even more clearly his belief and feeling for Tech. After his 14-year NFL career ended, he re-enrolled at Tech in 2011 for three semesters, driving 380 miles one way from his home in Jacksonville, Fla., to finish his degree in business management. He made dean’s list all three semesters before completing the degree at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., in 2015.
Even before earning his degree, he had begun a career in financial services and co-founded a financial-advisory firm catering to professional athletes. That gave way to an interest in coaching, at the high-school level in 2017 and then with the Oakland Raiders in 2018 as an assistant defensive-line coach. However, Coleman was let go at the end of the season. He’d had a conversation with coach Geoff Collins about the possibility of coming to Tech to coach the line, but Collins decided on bringing Jim Panagos with him from Temple.
That changed in January, when Panagos took an equivalent job at Minnesota and Collins quickly moved to hire Coleman.
“I wasn’t keeping up with the news (about Panagos’ departure),” Coleman said. “I just thought, ‘Hey, he decided to bring me on to the staff.’ That’s pretty much it.”
In Coleman’s third pass through Tech, he is learning yet again.
“I’m still young as a coach,” he said. “I make sure I keep myself humble and recognize that we’re all growing.”
Coleman has been handed a young group that includes redshirt freshmen Jordan Domineck and Justice Dingle. Some days, he said, he pulls out his hair. Some days, he lights up when he sees them execute a maneuver or technique that they’ve worked on.
“I really don’t have enough time in the day for all the drills I would like to do because there’s so much development that’s necessary, needed for them,” Coleman said. “But over time, they’ll get there.”
Domineck had to look up Coleman and his highlights to know who he was getting as his position coach, but said that his NFL experience (14 seasons, 207 games, 1 Pro Bowl) gives more resonance to his coaching.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing, he knows exactly what he’s talking about,” Domineck said.
“It’s been an amazing experience, getting us right, teaching us everything he knows,” Dingle said. “He’s a legend.”
Jaquan Henderson called him a great guy, but also someone who coaches his group hard.
“You mess up, he’s going to get after you,” Henderson said.
Domineck confirmed, attesting to Coleman’s intensity.
“He’ll treat you like his own son, but he will cuss you out if you mess up,” he said. “He wants to make sure that you succeed on the football field, in life, anywhere and everywhere.”
Domineck said that Coleman has sought to get to know him away from football and called him a father figure. That aspect seems to particularly delight Coleman, who said that one of the biggest reasons he came to Tech was the opportunity to mentor. His decision to come to Tech is confirmed, he said, every day that he comes into the football offices.
“To see those young men, it’s really bigger than what’s going on on the field,” he said. “Having an opportunity to be in their lives, share my experiences, listen to theirs, be a sounding board. And coming out on the football field, it’s just fun.”
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