Nov. 14, 2005
“Be alert to give service. What counts a great deal in life is what we do for others.”
Growing up in Tallahassee, senior James Coleman appreciated the support he received from the city so he made giving back to his community a priority.
Coleman, who has scored six career touch-downs for the Seminoles, uses every opportunity he has to help others.
“I just want to be able to give back to Tallahassee as much as I can possibly can,” said Coleman, who intends on starting a non-profit organization to help Tallahassee after he leaves Florida State. “I feel like I’m a product of people who took time out of their schedule to serve me. I, then, in return, owe them by serving others. All I want to do is make sure when it is all said and done that people can say that James Coleman cared about Tallahassee becoming a better city.”
Coleman, who walked on to the football team his freshman year and later earned a scholarship, has volunteered at many events including the Sunshine State SportsAbility event at the Seminole Reservation.
The SportsAbility event was geared to enhancing lives and having fun with children and adults with disabilities. He visits his former high school, Florida High, at least once a year with other FSU student-athletes to show the high school students how to play their football positions and talk to them about the importance of taking school seriously.
He also visits elementary schools in the area throughout the year to read to children and encourage them about academics.
However, the fullback, who was recognized by Florida State in April for his community involvement, said his most memorable experiences have been his journeys to South Africa.
During the past two spring breaks the social science major traveled to Johannesburg and Potchefstroom, South Africa.
Coleman, who scored the Seminoles’ only touchdown against Miami this year, was presented with the opportunity through his church and wanted to go because he had never been out of the country. His former roommate’s father was the pastor at the church he was visiting and it gave him a chance to get a better understanding of where his roommate came from.
The first time he traveled to South Africa, former Seminole student-athletes Chris Rix, Paul Irons, Adrian Crawford, Ron Miller, Corey Simon, Brett Williams and Gretchen Lackey joined him to help people less fortunate.
His second journey to Africa, Coleman was the only student-athlete on the trip.
“We go there and do a lot of speaking about how our lives have been changed,” Coleman said. “We get a chance to go to a lot of shantytowns and other developments. We basically go down trying to serve; trying to talk to people and share the good news of the Gospel. We help out anyway we can.”
According to Coleman, a typical day during a mission trip to South Africa is tremendously hectic. The day begins at 6 a.m. with breakfast, a meeting and prayer in preparation for the day. From 9 a.m. to noon, the group visits college campuses.
After visiting the campuses, they go back to the church and either take a nap or tour a different area. One excursion took them to a tiger petting zoo. After a two-hour break, they meet with friends they have met at the colleges and talk to them from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., they have a Champions for Christ Bible Study. They have dinner, talk about how
the day went, go to bed around 11 p.m. and do it all over again the next day.
Coleman, who has played in 41 straight games, said another memorable experience
was when he was almost eaten by a tiger. He and three other people were driving
through a lion farm in a tiny car, which he called pretty scary because of the terrain and
all of the lions roaming the grounds. He was able to play with the baby lions and tigers
because they are tame until they are released into the wild.
Coleman, who won the Offensive Big Hitter Award following spring drills, said, “The baby tiger was playing a little bit with me but it was very, very rough. I was getting nervous because it was gnawing on my sweat suit pants and it was pulling on it. I was like, `Listen, this kind of hurts.'”
Luckily for Coleman, there were trained attendants to rescue the 260-pound fullback from the baby tiger.
Through all of his experiences in South Africa, the most important lesson Coleman learned was the need to help others.
“While in Potchefstroom, we saw children who only ate twice a week,” Coleman said. “It gives you the realization that money cannot solve problems. The parents would take the money they received and buy alcohol.
A nice facility was built in six months for the children to play soccer indoors but it took only three days for the town to tear down the complex.”
Seeing the adversity others face with his own eyes made Coleman realize how fortunate he is to have the life he has.
“I was able to match that experience with my experience growing up,” Coleman said. “To see the kids be so happy and have nothing made me look at what I had and I realized I had a lot. It was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was. I have a great advantage being here in America.”
During the four years he has spent at Florida State, through community service and traveling to South Africa, James Coleman has indeed given back to Tallahassee and beyond.
By Maryjane Gardner
FSU Sports Information