Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo
Extremeskins

Coles turns on the Jets


WallyG3

Recommended Posts

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A51096-2003Jul26?language=printer

Redskins' Coles Turns On the Jets

Speedy New Receiver Ready to Make a Mark

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Laveranues Coles was sitting at home playing a video game and didn't want to be bothered by his beckoning cell phone. But it wouldn't stop ringing, so he reluctantly put his game on pause and went to see who kept calling so late on a lazy Sunday night in March. It was his agent, Roosevelt Barnes.

The calls were unexpected. Coles knew he was close to cashing in on his breakthrough 2002 season with the New York Jets. But he and Barnes had not been able to convince the Jets to offer him a signing bonus of more than $6 million -- at least $4 million less than the two wanted even after factoring in a "discount" for the team that had been willing to give Coles a chance when others wouldn't. Coles had spoken to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder the previous Friday, but he and Barnes weren't supposed to hear back from him for a few days.

But when Coles returned Barnes's call, the agent told him that Snyder had been in touch that night and was offering a $13 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year contract.

Coles's voice still rose in excitement three months later in a Jacksonville restaurant as he recounted what he had said to Barnes: "Thirteen? Call him back before he changes his mind! You shouldn't even call me to ask me. What are you thinking about?"

Thirteen million dollars -- now that was respect. Coles had felt snubbed by most of the football world since the day in 1999 when he and Florida State teammate Peter Warrick accepted a $391 discount on clothing from a clerk at a Dillard's department store. Seminoles Coach Bobby Bowden dismissed Coles from the team when the two players were charged with a felony and Coles, after pleading guilty to a reduced charge, was left to spend the months that followed preparing fanatically for an NFL draft in which he was given no assurances that he even would be picked.

The search for respect continued when Coles slipped to the third round of that draft and was chided by his first NFL coach. The Jets' Al Groh would say that he soon could be back at Dillard's, only this time he'd be working there. It continued even as Coles climbed the NFL ladder during the past three seasons, finally arriving close to Pro Bowl level last year -- only to find the Jets unwilling to give him the sort of big-money contract he was seeking.

Respect comes in many forms, and Snyder used his checkbook to provide a welcome version of it. Coles traveled to the Washington area on Snyder's private jet the day after Barnes interrupted his video game and two days later signed a $35 million offer sheet, which the Jets declined to match.

He is having his dream house built on a peaceful 22-acre lot approximately 15 miles outside downtown Jacksonville. It is about a half-hour's drive from where he grew up, which was mostly spent at his grandparents' house because his mother wanted him to escape the violence at her nearby housing project. In reality, it is a world away.

Coles has become a better player than Warrick, a one-time Heisman Trophy contender, a better player than the NFL coaches and front-office talent evaluators expected. And he will be the focus of plenty of attention today when the team reports to training camp at Redskins Park, and even more when the Redskins host the Jets at FedEx Field on Sept. 4 in the nationally televised NFL season opener.

Barbara Wakefield, Coles's grandmother, is among the many anxiously awaiting that game. "I hope he really does his best," she said recently, "and most of all when they play the Jets."

Here Comes 'Trouble'

He was nicknamed "Trouble" because he kept his mother, Sirretta, in a long and painful labor, and the family members waiting for him when he entered the world thought he might be a handful. They were wrong. "He was never a problem child," Wakefield said. "He never got into trouble."

Sirretta was just shy of her 17th birthday and wasn't married to Coles's father, Laveranues Sr. So she and her son lived with her parents in a modest but well-groomed house a few miles from the Cleveland Arms Apartments, where Sirretta moved after getting married about six years later. Coles says gunshots could be heard there almost every night, and police often combed the woods behind the apartment buildings looking for bodies. But his grandparents' neighborhood was quiet. He helped to raise his younger sister, Rashetta. Laveranues Sr. lived around the corner and made a good living working for Anheuser-Busch, but Coles says he never had much of a bond with his father.

"My dad never bought me anything for Christmas my whole life," he said. "That kind of tells you our relationship. . . . I'm not upset or bitter about it. I talk to him now. At first, I didn't want to. I kind of had that mind-set where if you weren't with me before I made it, I'm not going to deal with you. But my mom said, 'Laveranues, that's your father. You have to love him regardless.' "

Wakefield, a nurse, began working nights to be free to take Coles to his various sports activities during the day. Coles's mother made him attend church regularly -- Sirretta Williams now is a pastor and is opening a church in Jacksonville -- and kept after him about grades, punishing him for any mark as low as a C. Coles had better than a 3.0 grade-point average in high school and got the SAT score needed to qualify for freshman eligibility under NCAA rules as a 10th grader. He was recruited by Ivy League schools to play basketball, his first love.

He was the point guard on a state championship team at Ribault High. But it was as a running back that he really caught the eyes of the college recruiters. He rushed for nearly 5,000 yards at Ribault -- whose main rival, Raines High, was quarterbacked by Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner. He narrowed his college choices to Florida State, Florida, Notre Dame, Auburn and South Carolina.

Coles's family expected him to pick South Carolina, Wakefield said, but he went with Florida State. The Seminoles had Warrick Dunn at tailback, but Coles says that Bowden told him he'd get his chance. Midway through his sophomore season, though, he was moved to wide receiver, and wound up with 62 catches for 1,064 yards and seven touchdowns in his college career.

His stay at Florida State came to an abrupt end in October 1999. Two days before a game against Miami, Coles and Warrick were arrested and charged with a third-degree felony. A Florida State student who was a clerk at Dillard's had sold the two players $412.38 worth of clothing for $21.40, and the incident had been recorded on a surveillance camera.

The charges later were reduced to petty theft, and Warrick and Coles were sentenced to pick up trash along the side of a highway. Bowden allowed Warrick, who admitted to authorities that he had received improperly discounted merchandise at Dillard's on previous occasions, to return to the team after a two-game suspension. Bowden and other school officials said that Coles was treated differently because he already had been placed on probation for a string of prior incidents.

In August 1998, Coles was arrested for misdemeanor battery for an incident involving his former stepmother. Coles said he intervened in a fight between his mother and an ex-wife of Laveranues Sr. He performed community service and was suspended for a game. His eligibility for the 1999 season was in question for two months while school officials investigated whether he violated NCAA rules by allegedly accepting a plane ticket from an employee of agent Carl Poston to attend a party in Houston. Coles was cleared to play after reimbursing a girlfriend he said had bought the ticket. There were disputed reports of other incidents and academic problems.

Coles says he takes "full blame" for the actions that led to his ouster from the Florida State team, adding: "If I would never have been in those situations, [bowden] would never have had to make a decision. . . . I was running with a lot of the wrong people. I thought people were my friends that weren't my friends. I was out all times of night. You get that feeling like you're invincible and nothing can touch you. . . . You have your crew hanging with you. And that was my reality check."

Coles says that Bowden, who did not return telephone messages seeking comment for this story, has written him a few letters since the episode, but Coles hasn't responded.

"Eventually, you go back because you have to forgive and forget," Coles said. "I think I can go back now, but I haven't really had a reason to. . . . I'm not mad at them. I just hope he doesn't handle another kid the way that I was handled. As a kid, he's like our father away from home. A lot of us come from single-parent homes. You hope that he would learn something by being able to examine the situation and say, 'Hey, I'm these kids' father. Regardless of how much I talk to them or I don't talk to them, I'm really all they have.' "

Spurrier, a frequent critic of Bowden and Florida State while at Florida, said he didn't hold Coles's college transgressions against him.

"You have to admire what Laveranues did after that, after being booted out," Spurrier said. "He got with an agent and a speed coach and really worked out and really got himself ready for the NFL draft so he was ready to go. . . . That's a long time ago. Obviously, Laveranues has matured. He's been an excellent practice player and, I think, well-accepted by everyone here."

A Long Climb

When the Seminoles arrived in New Orleans to complete their national championship season with a triumph over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, Coles had been there for nearly two months, readying for the draft with rigorous daily workouts under the direction of speed coach Tom Shaw.

His once-close relationship with Warrick deteriorated and he felt abandoned by his former teammates. Bowden had promised to help him get into some postseason college all-star games but reneged, Coles said. Coles did get to work out for NFL scouts at Florida State alongside Warrick and wowed them, running the 40-yard dash in about 4.3 seconds on an indoor track.

"It was tough because people you thought were your friends, you didn't hear from them," Coles said. "Everybody was just gone. . . . It was me in my own little world. . . . I'm thinking, 'If I can just get into the league, I'll make it. . . . I'll prove everybody wrong, everybody who's making a decision about me or has said anything about me.' "

He spent most of draft day at his grandparents' house, agonizing in front of the TV. Warrick went fourth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. The hometown Jaguars told Coles they would pick him or another wide receiver, R. Jay Soward, late in the first round. They went with Soward. "We had a house full of people," Wakefield said. "He was so depressed."

The Jets finally took him in the third round with the 78th overall pick, making him the 13th wide receiver selected. Immediately after he was drafted, Coles said, he got a phone call from the Jets telling him he'd been chosen primarily to play on special teams.

Guard Randy Thomas, who also jumped from the Jets to the Redskins this offseason, said it became clear to Coles's new teammates within "a couple weeks" of practices that he was more than your average third-round draft choice. "He came to rookie camp, and he was like a first-round pick," Thomas said. "He was out to prove something. And he did."

Getting on Groh's good side was another matter.

"We just did not get along at all," Coles said. "I came in. I kept my nose clean. I did not say anything to anybody . . . but he just felt the need to ruffle my feathers every time he saw me. . . . I had dropped a ball in a [preseason] game or something. He was like, 'You remember you were at Dillard's?' I was looking at him and he was like, 'You're going to be at Dillard's, except for this time you're going to be working there.' "

Groh, now the head coach at the University of Virginia, said last week he pressed Coles hard "because I thought he had the talent to succeed. I wanted him to succeed.

"I don't think many teams were interested in Laveranues before the draft," Groh said. "I wanted him on our team because he was fast, tough and hungry, and he was forthright and accountable for what had happened. I made the selection to draft him, and it wasn't universally popular in our organization. I've followed him and rooted for him. I'm a fan of his. He's worked hard, and he's turned the opportunity he got into a $35 million job."

Coles was buried on the Jets' depth chart early in his rookie season. According to Coles, only a vote by the team's quarterbacks got him back into the playing rotation. He finished his rookie season with 22 receptions and says he actually was unhappy to see Groh leave for Virginia because that meant having to start over with a new coaching staff. But Groh's successor, Herman Edwards, had followed Coles's career while serving as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and says he went to New York with big plans for Coles.

"I got here and everyone was saying we needed to get a receiver," Edwards said last week. "I remember talking to [Jets offensive coordinator] Paul Hackett and saying, 'We've got one that's going to be pretty good -- Laveranues Coles. He can run fast. He's competitive. He likes football. Any time you have a guy with talent like that, you need to find a way to get it out of him.' . . . Laveranues is the type of guy where you have to earn his trust. I told him right from the outset who I was and what I expected from him. We literally sat down on the grass one day and I said, 'I expect you to be our best receiver. You have too much talent not to achieve that.' "

Coles had 59 catches in 2001 and 89 last season, when Edwards called him the team's most valuable player.

"He's the type of guy that you want on your football team," Edwards said. "He's a good player and a good person. He doesn't get enough credit for being a good person. He had some things in his past that get thrown in his face, but he's outgrown those things."

Bonus Bucks

By the time he received a call from Snyder on March 7, Coles had become exasperated with the Jets. He and Barnes had felt they could get a signing bonus of more than $10 million on the open market, but were willing to settle for that much from the Jets as part of a long-term contract extension. Coles had established a bond with Jets quarterback Chad Pennington and wanted to stay, he says. The Jets offered him a $6 million signing bonus and, according to Coles, told him they didn't have to budge because they could give him the $1.3 million tender this year and could use their franchise-player tag to retain him next offseason, when he would have been an unrestricted free agent.

"I was like, 'I came here and busted my behind for your ballclub, and this is how you want to treat me?' From that point, I was like, 'I don't owe you guys nothing,' " Coles said.

Only after word of Snyder's offer became public did the Jets offer him a $10 million signing bonus, Coles said.

Said Edwards: "It was very, very hard to lose Laveranues Coles. But there are certain things we do as a business. You know there are certain things you can do and certain things you can't do."

Now Coles has been given something else to play for -- proving he's worth the money.

"We all play to get ahead in life," Coles said. "But what I play for, mostly, is the respect. In so many ways, I feel like I've been disrespected again, with so many people saying, 'They gave him so much money. They overpaid him.' . . . I play for, when I walk out of that tunnel, the respect that guys give you. There are very few guys that get respect from other guys in the game, and that's what you want. When you see Jerry Rice, there it is. . . . That's what you play the game for, to have that respect when you walk out the tunnel and the guy you're going up against says, 'I have to deal with this guy all day.' "

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"We all play to get ahead in life," Coles said. "But what I play for, mostly, is the respect. In so many ways, I feel like I've been disrespected again, with so many people saying, 'They gave him so much money. They overpaid him.' . . . I play for, when I walk out of that tunnel, the respect that guys give you. There are very few guys that get respect from other guys in the game, and that's what you want. When you see Jerry Rice, there it is. . . . That's what you play the game for, to have that respect when you walk out the tunnel and the guy you're going up against says, 'I have to deal with this guy all day.' "

Good, I like the attitude.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He's a player, hopefully his career won't go unnoticed now that the like of Ramsey & Rob Johnson are throwing him the ball.

Sam Cowart is going to have something for Cole$ on Sept. 4th :cheers:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by NYC

He's a player, hopefully his career won't go unnoticed now that the like of Ramsey & Rob Johnson are throwing him the ball.

Sam Cowart is going to have something for Cole$ on Sept. 4th :cheers:

Oh, don't worry. Now that he has a QB without a noodle arm throwing to him, his Y/C will go up, as will his TDs. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Jets are going to be all over Coles in the season opener because they know how dangerous he is plus they don't want to be showed up by one of players who left them.

That means that Rod Gardner and who ever is the slot receiver (Jacobs?) will have a great game.

Ramsey will throw 3 TD's, 260 yards. Canidate will have 80 yards and a score.

Redskins 34 Jets 10

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My favorite quote;

"...when Coles returned Barnes's call, the agent told him that Snyder had been in touch that night and was offering a $13 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year contract.

Coles's voice still rose in excitement three months later in a Jacksonville restaurant as he recounted what he had said to Barnes: "Thirteen? Call him back before he changes his mind! You shouldn't even call me to ask me. What are you thinking about?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...