“I love being here. These are my streets, this is my city.”
Alex Coleman is a Columbus local. He grew up right here in the city and attended Eastmoor Academy High School. Throughout school he maintained 4.0 GPA and led his team to the state championship. Though they ultimately lost that game, he was named the MVP. Everything seemed primed for a successful career on the field and he had hoped for that scholarship offer from Ohio State, but that offer never came. Looking back on it now, Coleman, now a wide receiver for the recently relaunched Arena Football League team the Columbus Destroyers, said that was fuel to his fire to work harder, but through trials and tribulations comes perspective.
The AFL is unlike most leagues in sports. With the setup of the field literally butting up to the stands, the fans are able to get in on the action as close as safely possible. In between plays or before kick offs, fans can chat with the athletes on the field. If a football makes it into the stands, the lucky person who caught it is now going home with a free souvenir—try that at an Ohio State game and you’ll have an usher tackling you like Joey Bosa in no time. And after the games, fans can stick around to go on the field and meet the team. If your little one is especially into sports, imagine the look on their face as they play catch with a player on the team. There’s no question here: the AFL is more than just football—it’s a community builder. And that’s why Coleman is taking his opportunity to return home so seriously.
“I come from a hard-working family, but we didn’t know anything about athletics,” Coleman explained. “When you look for some type of figure to motivate you and push you in the right direction, I think that’s where I fell short coming out of high school.”
He committed to Ashland University and eventually transferred to Capital University where he kept that same mentality for maintaining school and athletics, and graduated with a degree in Communications Studies, balancing the act of academics and athletics without a mentor. Now that he’s back in the city that helped shape him, he’s looking to serve as that role model he needed when he was growing up. It’s a way to break the chain for him and others growing up in similar situations—a method for nurturing the next generation.
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“Everybody loves a Cinderella story, but it’s often not like that,” Coleman said.
(And for the record, even Cinderella had the help of a fairy godmother. Didn’t think you’d see this factoid in a sports story, did ya?)
For Coleman, actions speak louder than words. Throughout his career, he’s been told he’s too small for the wide receiver position, as he stands at 5-foot-9-inches tall. Recruiters and reports all said if he were a few inches taller, he’d be a must-grab for many universities. Instead of letting those words dictate his career, he’s out to prove them wrong. In the high school championship game where they lost, he stole the limelight with three touchdowns and the MVP trophy. Last season with the Carolina Havoc, there was some debate on whether Coleman should be in the starting lineup. The next game he scored four touchdowns—with the last one being the game winner. Coleman was solidified in the lineup, and the Havoc are now reigning champs of the American Arena Football league.
This mantra of “do more, say less” finds a new chapter with his arrival in Columbus. Again, Coleman finds himself behind the eight ball vying for a starting position. For him, it’s not a matter of if, but when. And when that day comes, Coleman said he knows he’ll have to make the most of the opportunity because he never knows if it’ll be his last. That’s another sentiment Coleman is trying to drive home with young athletes as well. Whether it be injuries, grades, off-the-field antics, or simply just not making the cut, tomorrow is never promised in football. He said athletes have to be prepared for plan B, C, or even Z.
It’s easy to say something to a kid, but to actually be an example to them means even more,” Coleman explained. “Kids are much more mature in terms of their train of thought so a lot of kids are going to question me like, ‘Why should I do it if you didn’t?’ ”
Since arriving in Columbus, Coleman has been working with youth on the developmental side. While he sees the importance of coaching on the field, his interest is more in getting young people prepared with the fundamentals so they have the tools available to work efficiently. Not only does this help shape athletes for high school and beyond, it helps coaches recognize the players taking extra steps plus, gives a stronger foundation to build off. He’s also made a return to some of his old stomping grounds to give advice and expertise at Eastmoor High School, as well as Capital. Coleman said it only takes one person to start a change and create a village, and so far, it seems he’s on the right path.
The Columbus Destroyers play at Nationwide Arena. For more information on tickets plus the schedule, check out columbusdestroyers.com.