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Carolina Panthers

Perseverance pays off for OT Coleman

If circumstances had played out differently, offensive tackle Shon Coleman could have been an early-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.

But because of the harsh reality Coleman had to tackle, he hadn't played a single snap of college football at that point, even though he committed to play football at Auburn in 2010.

"It honestly went so fast, it's really crazy," Coleman said. "I look back and reflect six years ago when I first heard the news and think about it now, I just give all the glory to God because he's brought me a long way."

The news Coleman was referring to came shortly after he signed his letter of intent to play with Auburn, when his family found out that what his mother thought was a case of the mumps turned out to be lymphoblastic leukemia.

"The doctor told my mother, and my mother told me," Coleman said. "Getting the news, it was very shocking. My mom, she was very upset about it.

"I had a lot of support from my family, fans at Auburn and the coaching staff, and I just pushed through."

Now on the other side of the ordeal, Coleman could possibly be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft after two standout seasons as Auburn's left tackle. He has grown as a player, certainly, but learned hard lessons about being a man before stepping foot on a college field.

For two-and-a-half years, Coleman underwent intense treatment that eventually knocked out the disease. It never knocked him out, and amazingly the hulking man managed to maintain his weight throughout the process save for about 10 pounds.

"I was working out like at two o'clock in the morning, sneaking out, trying to keep my weight up," Coleman said.  "I went to this place called Lifetime in Memphis. I went when like nobody was there. I wanted to be low-key, just go out there and push some weight around, just trying to stay as fit as I could."

Coleman's determination helped him beat cancer, and finally, in the fall of 2013, he was able to make his college debut.

"It was great, just being out there again with my teammates, just getting back in that football atmosphere," Coleman said. "It was exciting. I'll never forget that day."

Soon, Coleman should experience another unforgettable day, presumably in the earlier stages of the 2016 NFL Draft. Coleman backed up Greg Robinson in 2013, and after Robinson went second overall in the 2014 draft to the Rams, Coleman took over as Auburn's starting left tackle.

Coleman excelled in that role and is now ready for the next stage, though again he faces a challenge. Last season, he played through what turned out to be a partially torn medial collateral ligament and is just now ready to start working out again.

Of course, compared to what he overcame at the beginning of his college career, that's nothing.

"Just getting back on the field, now I don't take life for granted," Coleman said. "It can get taken away from you as quick as that.

"I got another opportunity to play football again. I just took on the opportunity and did a great job with it the past couple years."

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