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Lavon Coleman embraces 'beautiful chance'

Lavon Coleman leaned back in a white, high-backed chair with metal studs running down the side and a patterned pillow providing a little extra cushion.

Wearing a white, short-sleeved button-down shirt and a black bowtie, Coleman seemed content with a wide smile that seemed to stretch the width of the window behind him.

These days, Coleman has purpose. He knows where he is headed. He has been handed an opportunity and is working to make the most of it.

But, a few months ago, the former running back at the University of Washington was in a much darker place. He was out of work. Out of money. And felt like he was out of options.

He wasn’t ready to give up on football, but he forced himself to answer one question: “Has football given up on me?”

After being selected by the Seattle Dragons in the XFL Draft, a few weeks ago, he has his answer.

“This is a beautiful chance to give people the opportunity to go back to chasing their dream, get a couple more shots,” Coleman said. “Even if it doesn’t happen, you still get to pursue that last hurrah in football.”

During his time with the Huskies, Coleman earned a reputation as a punishing back. An injury his senior season derailed his NFL dream.

“When I graduated from UW and went into the draft, I was expecting to get drafted,” he said. “That was the biggest dream, whether it was in the seventh round of whatever the case may be.”

It hurt when his name wasn’t called.

With tears in his eyes, he turned to his family and apologized, “I’m sorry I let you down,” he told them.

But, while he didn’t get drafted, he was signed by the Houston Texans as a free agent. When he was cut by the Texans, he was signed by the Seahawks. Then he was cut, signed again and cut once more.

“This is done,” he thought to himself.

But his phone rang one more time. He was on his way to Green Bay. Then in May, he was, once again, looking for work.

“That’s fine,” he said at the time. “I’ll just get picked up somewhere else. I never got a call. Had a couple of workouts. They didn’t sign anyone.”

He kept training. But he was realistic. He was angry. But he wanted to be optimistic.  

“I was really mad, because I thought I belonged in the National Football League,” he said.

Then everything changed.  

“I just went on a journey with God,” he said. “I asked him, ‘What do I do now?’”

As he talked about what happened next, he said he focused on who he wanted to be for his son, Kyree James – he turns three in December.

“I just took my son and put him right here (he touched his heart) and right here (he touched his head) and just grinded,” Coleman said.

He released all of the anger he had been carrying with him. He forgave people. He apologized to others.

“It became a constant thing, a blessing here, a blessing there,” he said. “Pay attention here. Pay attention there. I met Scott (Hedgcock), who is now my mentor, and he and Josh (Betts) offered me this internship here.”

Before he found his way back to football, he landed an internship with Aletheian Wealth Advisors.

“It’s a blessing that they gave me the opportunity to intern here and learn financial literacy, which is a big thing for me,” Coleman said. “I want to take care of my family without just handing them money. I want to be able to show them way to invest their money and make a difference.”

While he is learning on the job, he is already a contributing member of the team.

“Lavon is a special dude,” Hedgcock said. “You initially meet somebody and you know them as an athlete. You remember No. 22 running around for Husky football – I’ve been a Husky football fan my whole life. But, he’s a special guy. He’ll be successful at whatever he does in life. As long as he wants to do it and he’s passionate about it, he’ll be successful.”

Betts, the CEO, added, “He’s uniquely gifted in a lot of different ways. One thing we know about him, he knows how to work. He lifts people up.”

But, while Coleman builds his business acumen, his football dream is still alive.  

“I’ve been training every day, nonstop,” he said. “I don’t go to a training facility. I do everything on my own. That’s how bad I want it. I don’t need my agent paying for a facility. I’m going to do this myself. I’m going to wake up every day on my own and tell myself you need to do this.”

He trains to get his body ready to play. He works to “conquer” the business world. He grinds to provide for his son.

“I used to believe, I wanted to give my son everything I never had,” he said. “The more I read and the more knowledge I gain, I realize it’s not about that, it’s about teaching him everything I didn’t know.

“That’s a very important thing for me, especially on my journey with God. I want my son to know who he is and what he can do. I just really want to be that image my son looks up to. Every day, every maneuver, every word, everything is properly calculated, because at the end of the day, what I do ripples into his future. I want to make sure everything I do is right.”

He is on the right track. The next step is earning a spot on the Dragons’ 52-man roster.

“It’s a blessing to be able to get this opportunity again,” he said. “Now, there’s no set starters. There aren’t any guys who have to get paid, who were this high draft pick, so they have to play. That’s not how it works. Now, it’s an open competition. The best 11 play. I expect myself to push harder than anyone else, because I have so much to give, so much to play for.”