Exclusive with Steelers WR/KR Andre Coleman, 1997-1998

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First, tell me a bit about your coaching work at Kansas State. How did you get started there?

Yeah I’m coaching at Kansas State – I’m the Passing Game Coordinator. A former teammate of mine became the head coach there and gave me an opportunity to coach there. I wanted to be able to help change lives. I wanted to be an inspiration to young guys – to help them avoid the mistakes I made as a young man.

What coaches helped influence your coaching style and approach?

I was blessed to have had some great coaches. My high school coach was a great coach. Bill Snyder is a Hall of Fame coach – a legendary coach. Bill Cowher was awesome – he knew how to motivate guys and get the best out of guys. Bob Stoop – he won a national championship.

So, I took pieces from all of those guys, Bobby Ross in San Diego too. I took bits and pieces from all of them to help create my own identity.

What’s the biggest difference you found in college versus NFL players in terms of how they approach the game?

The biggest difference is that NFL players are professionals. If you don’t do your job, you’re fired plain and simple. In college, with scholarships, they feel more comfortable. I think with this younger generation, there is a lot of entitlement. It’s the information age with Twitter, Instagram…they are always told how great they are. It’s amazing how serious some of these guys take it. It really has softened up guys now.

A lot of discussion these days on how the college game has changed the way the NFL has played and the quality of play, when in the past it was seen as more the other way around. What’s your approach to how you prepare college players foe the NFL?

I try to coach guys to be pro-ready. They need to learn coverages and defenses. The fundamentals and techniques. Learn to watch film.

I am surprised at how many players don’t know how to do those things. I have a player who just made the Atlanta practice squad. He told me he took for granted what I taught him, but that he realized it gave him an advantage. So many guys can’t read coverages. Some colleges, they have their players run one route, regardless of the coverage. Here you have to think and process information and run the right routes depending on coverages.

As a guy most known as a return guy, you still were a good receiver as well. Did it frustrate you being “typecast” as a return guy?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Smaller receivers weren’t accepted then – teams wanted the bigger 6’4″ type guys. If I played today, the spread offenses that weren’t popular back then – in today’s age I’d have had a greater opportunity.  I could play in the slot. But that’s just part of the game. It evolves. I was blessed to play for five years.

What made you such a good kick returner?

Vision. Courage. Trust  in the guys blocking for you, You can’t do it by yourself – they have to be there to make blocks. You have to hit it at full speed. I did it and enjoyed it, I think I was good at it because I was a competitor. I also had a little man complex. It gave me a little edge – a chip on my shoulder.

What brought you to Pittsburgh in n’97?

I was out in Seattle. I left San Diego to go to Seattle but it was not a good fit. I was waived by Seattle and Pittsburgh picked me up right away. I was mainly a return guy. I didn’t know the system but I could do that right away. I also got a little success as a wide receiver there.

Any good stories of your time in Pittsburgh?

The Steelers fans are awesome. I remember when we had bad snowstorms, when the neighbors realized I was a Steeler, my driveway was always shoveled when I got outside!

Pittsburgh was a great organization. great guys, I used to go bowling with Jerome Bettis. I thought I was a good bowler until I played him. It was a great locker room. Thats the part I miss most about playing.

Any advice you’d give young guys entering the NFL today?

Take the profession seriously. Put in the time. In the NFL no one holds your hand like they do in college. There’s no structured schedule for you. You have to take it upon yourself to maintain your body and study film. You may meet for an hour and then practice and work eight hour days and be an average player and leave and go home. But to be a pro – you need to put the extra hours in.

And save your money. In the NFL you already have the spotlight and the celebrity. You don’t need the most expensive car and house and jewelry. A lot of guys put value in these things. But I would advise them to save for the future and live a certain way. Not just for the short term.

Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades To order, just click on the book:

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