Some folks have labeled this year’s Auburn Football Team as having a miracle season. While I believe it has had more to do with coaching, hard work, and preparation … one can understand that label.
At the end of 2012, Auburn seem to be a program barely on life support after failing to win a single SEC game. In January, Gus Malzahn and his staff took over a disappointed and dispirited team.
Perhaps no single player on that team knows better what it means to come back from overwhelming odds than offensive tackle Shon Coleman. He understands better than most what it was like to be demoralized and yet make it back from what appeared, at best, to be a long shot.
Three years ago, on National Signing Day 2010, the 5-star lineman from Olive Branch, Mississippi had signed to play football for the Auburn Tigers. It was a happy and proud day for Shon and his family.
Then, just a few weeks later, Shon’s dreams were shattered when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblast leukemia. Suddenly football wasn’t so important anymore – simply surviving was.
“The thoughts that went through my head when I first got diagnosed were scary, and I was really disappointed,” said Shon. “I was just about to head off to Auburn and start a new life in college.”
Instead of starting that new life, Shon had to start intensive chemotherapy. For two and a half years he under went treatment for the dreaded disease at Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. His treatment included therapy to keep his muscles active in hopes that one day he might be able to return to the game he loved.
To his credit, former Coach Gene Chizik told Shon he would still have a scholarship whether or not he was ever able to play football again and he just wanted him to focus on getting well.
So as the Tigers were experiencing one of their best seasons in the history of the program, Shon was battling for his life. He was not able to be a part of the team that came back to beat Alabama 28-27, trounce South Carolina in the SEC Championship game, and defeat Oregon for the National Championship.
However, on September 7th, after three long years of therapy and rehabilitation Shon Coleman, cancer survior, finally reached his goal of playing college football. He played left tackle in the second half of the Tigers 38-9 victory over Arkansas State.
Make no mistake, Shon earned that playing time. He had seriously challenged for the right tackle spot in fall camp and at the start of the season wound up being No.2 on the depth chart behind All-American Left Tackle Greg Robinson. That’s an accomplishment that is nothing short of inspirational.
Here was a guy that had been about as low as a person could go. From having his dreams shattered to fighting for his life. From being diagnosed with cancer to beating cancer. From having to play catch up against the other linemen to earning a spot in the playing rotation.
And now three years after Shon Coleman missed out being on a team experiencing a dream season, missed out on being a part of an SEC Championship, missed out on participating in a National Championship game …
He’s now part of a dream season. He’s now an SEC Champion. And most importantly, in just 10 days, he will be running out the tunnel at the Rose Bowl to try and help Auburn win another National Championship. When it comes to inspiration …
It just doesn’t get any better than that!
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