Whenever times got tough on the football field growing up, B.J. Coleman always reflected on his mother, Anita, to ground himself.
Standing 5 feet, 2 inches, Anita pales in comparison to her 6-foot-3, 231-pound son, a rookie quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
She was, however, a school principal for 33 years who woke early each morning to make breakfast for Coleman and his brother, Jarrod, before sending them to school.
During that time, Coleman never heard her complain and that outlook made it difficult to get too upset about an interception or missed throw during a football game.
Perspective wasn’t the only thing Anita gave her son, though. While his physical tools came from his namesake and former University of Tennessee-Chattanooga offensive lineman Byron Sr., Coleman inherited his mother’s personality.
“She’s very disciplined, but she always had a smile on her face,” Coleman said. “You know, not everything is going to be perfect, but the reality is you’re still breathing and you have the opportunity to make it right the next day. There’s no reason to feel down on yourself or anything like that.
“Whenever we’re feeling down, (Jarrod and I) will keep each other in check by saying, ‘Mom does this, so we can do that. We’ve been given some gifts, we need to use them.’”
Since being drafted by the Packers in the seventh round in April, Coleman’s reputation has preceded him as an extrovert on the football field, along with being a film junkie off it.
Almost a month into training camp, he hasn’t lost that enthusiasm. At 23, Coleman is getting the opportunity to play professional football for a living and his excitement on the field reflects that.
Like any other rookie quarterback, Coleman has had ups and downs. His overflowing eagerness to get on the field showed during his first and only rep in last Thursday’s preseason game against Cleveland when he threw an interception.
It all plays into who Coleman is. Even when there are setbacks, he doesn’t carry it into the huddle.
“First off, he’s a great guy and a fun guy to be around,” wide receiver Andrew Brewer said. “He’s always talking to me and the other guys and is a great encourager, especially with me coming in late, but you definitely see him coming around and getting better each week.”
Coleman took to football when he was 10. He played running back his first year before switching to quarterback, the position he’s played for the last 12 years.
Coleman transferred to Chattanooga following his redshirt freshman season at Tennessee. Seeking an opportunity to play, he opted to attend the same university as his parents, which is located only 10 minutes from their house.
When Coleman arrived, he beat out senior Jare Gault for the starting job in 2009 before leading the Mocs to 17 wins over the next three seasons. The result wasn’t eye-popping, but it was a drastic improvement from the program’s 6-28 record in the three years before his arrival.
“To get things going again was a great feeling,” Coleman said. “The atmosphere took a complete 180 turn and to be able to see what they’re doing now, it’s a pretty cool feeling. When I get to watch and listen, and keep up with articles on the Mocs because I saw it when it was down.”
In Green Bay, Coleman is back at the ground floor, but the situation isn’t anything close to the one he inherited in Chattanooga. Now, he’s playing under MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and backup Graham Harrell, who spent a majority of the last two seasons on the team’s practice squad.
The only question is if the Packers will keep three quarterbacks on their active roster. Although Harrell spent time on the 53-man roster during each of the last two seasons, the team hasn’t started the regular season with three quarterbacks since 2008.
“I don’t think about that stuff right now,” Coleman said. “I’m in the playbook constantly trying to get better. I’ll continue to work with those guys and learn as much as I can, and put myself in the best opportunity to be successful.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.