By David Fong
TROY — After a position switch, a concussion and a broken wrist, Sam Coleman was more worried about his future as a high school football player than he was any possibility of playing in college.
“After I moved to receiver my junior year, I thought I was doing pretty well, but then I had the concussion and, as soon as I got back from that, I broke my wrist,” the Troy High School senior said. “At that point, I didn’t know if I would even be able to play high school football again. I didn’t know how any of that would pan out.”
Things would pan out with Coleman not only returning to high school football last fall, but he also moved back to quarterback — the position he had played as a freshman and sophomore — and he played well enough to earn the opportunity to play in college. Coleman recently made the commitment to attend school and play football at Wilmington College.
“I fell in love with the coaches,” Coleman said of Wilmington. “I believe in what they are saying and feel like they have my best interests at heart. Plus they run the same offense we do, so I’m going to be able to come in knowing the system.”
Coleman should know the ins and outs of the offense, having seen it played from two different positions. He was the starting quarterback on Troy’s freshman football team, then was the junior varsity quarterback as a sophomore. With record-setting quarterback Hayden Kotwica firmly entrenched as Troy’s varsity quarterback going into his junior season, Coleman moved to wide receiver in 2016 in an effort to get on the field.
He played in three games before injuries hit, catching 8 passes for 134 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown reception. While he was recovering in the offseason, he was making plans to return to receiver as a senior — if he would be healthy enough to return at all.
“Honestly, I was going to try to be a receiver my senior year,” Coleman said. “But coach Wright started working with me and said he wanted me to play quarterback.”
Coleman was “fortunate” enough to make his varsity debut as Troy’s quarterback in the season opener against Trotwood, the team that would go 15-0 and win a Division III state championship last fall. Coleman completed 5 of 20 passes for 80 yards and two interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown — in a 48-0 loss, giving him a quarterback rating of 38.6 for the game.
“That was an experience, starting against Trotwood in my first varsity game as quarterback,” Coleman said. “I definitely had some doubts in my abilities after that game. But Coach Wright told me I just had to put that behind me.”
Coleman would do just that, steadily improving every week, hitting his peak in Week 9 against Greenville, completing 14 of 16 passes for 207 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 237.4 — nearly 200 points better than the season opener.
For the year, Coleman completed 83 of 166 passes for 1,014 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also carried the ball 64 times for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had someone come along as quickly as Sam did at quarterback this season,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “He played quarterback his freshman and sophomore season, then didn’t play it at all as a junior. Then we ask him to open up against Trotwood, the state champion.
“A lot of kids his age would have cracked after Week 1. The fact he didn’t shows what kind of kid he is. The biggest thing about him is how mentally tough he is. He believed he could get the job done and he did. Now he’s going to college and I think one of the things they love about him is his upside. He’s only played varsity quarterback for one year — he has a lot of room yet to grow and I think his best football is ahead of him.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong