When the decision became official on Monday to make Jamie Coleman the new head baseball coach at Scotland High School, it gave Coleman barely any time to find his bearings.
The Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League is set to begin next week, and Coleman’s late hire has left him with a barrage of work to complete in the days leading up to the Fighting Scots’ first talent showcase since the season ended a month ago.
But as the community has known since his days as a two-sport star at SHS, Coleman’s inner fire to compete right away makes the challenges he faces something he’s excited to tackle in full stride.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling, and being the new coach is a thought that hasn’t completely sunk in yet,” Coleman said. “But I can’t wait to start, because this team won’t sit on its hands and do nothing while the other teams in our conference get better. I’d rather not have the time to think about my new role, I just want to go out there and do what I do best.”
Whether he realized it at the time, Coleman’s all-state career as a Fighting Scot was molding him for the present day. Coleman was a senior when Tommy Britt was introduced as the baseball coach. From the start, Britt recognized Coleman’s potential as a leader on-and-off the field.
“Coach Britt moved me to the outfield my senior year so I could showcase my arm strength, because he saw me as a potential pro prospect,” Coleman said. “I learned how to be a good teammate over the course of my Fighting Scots career, but my senior year I feel I became the ultimate teammate under my coaches at the time.”
As a center fielder for Scotland, Coleman batted .440 with five home runs and 12 stolen bases, and also led the team in RBIs en route to the Fighting Scots splitting the conference championship with Richmond in 1993.
But while he shined in his new team role envisioned by Britt, it wasn’t Coleman’s first exposure to a new coach and new system. Also introduced that same academic year was former Scotland football coach Mark Barnes, who upon seeing Coleman’s explosive big-play ability made the decision to start Coleman at quarterback, limiting his snaps at the free safety position that he played throughout his high school career.
“When coach Barnes took over he saw me as a quarterback,” Coleman said. “But of course, if the opposing offense would hit mid-field he would wheel me back out as a free safety just because he knew that I could knock some heads around.”
Manning the offense for the Fighting Scots, Coleman would lead his team to a 7-3 record, barely missing the playoffs after a triple-overtime loss to Richmond in the final game of the 1992-3 season.
However, when one chapter in Coleman’s life came to a close, another opened, as Coleman received a full athletic scholarship to play strong safety at Appalachian State University. Switching to cornerback his junior year, Coleman was a defensive stalwart on a Appalachian State squad that went undefeated in the regular season and won the Southern Conference championship, the first time in North Carolina collegiate football history a team has done so on any level.
With his athletic career reaching its apex, Coleman bypassed his senior year at the university in hopes of being selected in the 1996 NFL draft.
The draft came and went that year without Coleman being drafted, but shortly thereafter Coleman began receiving phone calls from teams looking to sign him onto their practice squads. Coleman made the decision to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, and started three preseason games before being released.
While it was admittedly a “bitter pill to swallow” at the time, Coleman has no regrets about his short stint in the NFL and believes that many of the lessons he learned from the experience helped build who he is today.
“One of the biggest things it taught me was that everything happens for a reason,” Coleman said. “Here is this boy from the small town of Laurinburg with big dreams, and coming so close to reaching those dreams is something I will never forget and something that drives me to this very day.”
Though his NFL career was finished, his professional football career was not, and in 1996 Coleman received an offer to tryout for the Frankfurt Galaxy out of NFL Europe. Still holding out hope for a call from the big leagues, Coleman made the team and traveled to Germany for the two and a half month season. Upon his return, Coleman was greeted with a phone call, but not quite what he was expecting. It was from current Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who offered Coleman a contract to play for the Nashville Kats Arena Football League (AFL) team.
Coleman would play two seasons with the team, and despite the different speed of the arena football game, he would net All-Arena honors as a defensive specialist in his first season. But the traveling schedule and devotion to his son would make the 1998 season Coleman’s last. He would return to Laurinburg in 1999.
“I still had my zeal to play professional ball, but my son was getting bigger and he was my up-most priority,” Coleman said. “So I made the decision to leave the team, and while I was disappointed that my career didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would, I knew that I played to the best of my ability the entire time which gave me peace of mind.”
Upon his arrival back home, Coleman’s former defensive coordinator and baseball coach Roger Edwards was the principal of Scotland High School, and when news broke that Coleman had returned, Edwards brought Coleman to Barnes about a possible coaching role. Coleman would accept the offer, and signed to become both a teacher assistant at SHS and the ninth grade defensive back coach in 1999. Coleman impressed his first season as a DB coach, and before the year was out he was promoted to the varsity assistant DB coach under Mike Kesler. Coleman would become the head DB coach in the 2001-02 season.
As his Fighting Scots football and baseball careers mirrored each other during his playing days, so did his role as a coach on both squads. The same year he became the assistant DB coach for the varsity football team, Coleman accepted an assistant role with Michael Sellers to coach the Junior Varsity baseball squad, and was promoted to a varsity bench coach in 2000.He has fulfilled his role on both varsity teams for over a decade.
Flash forward to 2012, and the two-sport career that Coleman has cultivated since his days as a SHS student is still going strong. Coleman will continue serving as the varsity football team’s DB coach in addition to his new-found role as the head baseball coach, and the 2011-12 4-A state football championship ring he wears indicates that his heart and dedication is wholly committed to both sports.
When asked to list his strengths as a coach, Coleman’s answer reveals the traits that made him a standout player at one time for the Fighting Scots: excitement, accountability, devotion, work ethic, relating to players.
But as he’s set to inherit the varsity baseball team, Coleman’s first-year goals fall in line with the success enjoyed by Britt during his previous 20 year tenure in the same position.
“Our goal is the same as it is every single year,” Coleman said. “To win the conference championship, earn a good seeding in the 4-A state playoffs and catch fire when we need to most. We have the personnel to get it done, and there won’t be any drop off in expectations for this team under my watch.”