Lavon Coleman (Scout.com)
Lavon Coleman was at Washington's Rising Stars, and while most prospects come to a big event like UW's it's to prove themselves. Coleman, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back prospect from Lompoc, Calif. was there to work, but also to have fun. And while he was in Seattle, he took part in a group announcement off-campus where a few top prospects pledged their futures to the Huskies.
Coleman was part of a group that included Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande defensive lineman Elijah Qualls, OL/DL Andrew Basham from Lynnwood, Lancaster, Texas' Daeshon Hall (by way of Garfield High School in Seattle), outside lineback Caleb Tucker from Louisiana, and receiver Demorea Stringfellow and offensive lineman Poasi Moala of Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, Calif. were also involved in the group announcement. More on this breaking story will be available Friday afternoon on Dawgman.com.
For Washington fans putting the nouns Lompoc and running back together come up with one unmistakable conclusion - Napoleon Kaufman. The former Husky - considered by many to be the greatest running back in the history of Washington football - keeps tabs on his high school alma mater, even if it is from a distance. Kaufman is now a minister in Dublin, California.
But Kaufman and Coleman barely know each other. According to Coleman, they shook hands once - and he was later made aware of who Kaufman was and how big a player he was at Lompoc, guiding them to a 1990 CIF Championship. In a bit of an ironic twist, the Huskies didn't really need Nip's help. It was some good, old-fashioned recruiting that got them in with Coleman, and that's where they stayed.
"Ultimately it came down to Washington because they were the first ones to find him," Lompoc Head Coach Andrew Jones told Dawgman.com matter-of-factly. "Not too many people want to take that 20-minute drive to Highway 1 off the 101. They were the first ones to find him, and they consistently were in contact with him through me to see how he was doing. We haven't really had a guy at Lompoc…we've had a few, but I think the big thing for Lavon is that he had a great relationship with coach Thomas and Sark. He had 15 offers, but he probably couldn't tell you the head coach of 13 of them. He only knew a few and talked to a couple of them, but he's got a good relationship with coach Sark and he's already been up here once on an unofficial. He just kind of knows it's the best fit for him."
Coleman remembers when the Huskies offered. It was a week or two after signing day. "I didn't know much about college recruiting at the time," he said. "I didn't know anything. I just thought 'hey, I got an offer - that means I'm good'. It feels good to know now that Washington is the school that I'm going to go to. Washington is the perfect school for me. They stayed on me and showed me how bad they wanted me. That's the school I'm going to go to. It came down to coach Sark, coach Thomas, the class and how good we are…what opportunity we have to be the best class that's been recruited to U-Dub."
Jones and Kaufman talk all the time, so it wasn't a surprise that Kaufman started to ask questions about the big back from his alma mater that was tearing it up on the field. "The connection with Napoleon…with this whole roller-coaster with the recruiting…I just think Napoleon has been supportive of the whole thing," Jones said. "He's been supportive of the program. The last year few years he's come down…we had a 20-year reunion for the 1990 team that won the CIF Championship. He's also come down to an all-star game that we have in our area. So he's supportive of our area.
"I just think he wants what's best for Lavon. In the whole process, U-Dub has just kind of stuck out. They really have pursued Lavon more than anyone else, any other school. He wasn't all about U-Dub; he just wanted to make sure Lavon was getting the job done in the classroom. 'If you guys need anything I'm here to help'. He's just been supportive. He didn't play a role in the decision-making; he's just been typical Nip - just a role model and somebody Lavon can look up to. We know if we need someone to talk to, Napoleon is always there."
Coleman took an unofficial visit to Seattle in mid-April, and it was monumental for many reasons. The first being that it was his first time ever out of the state of California. It was also his first time in an airplane. When asked for the first thing that jumped out at him during that fateful visit, Coleman talked about the Suzzallo Library in the middle of UW's campus.
"They have a big-ass library!" he exclaimed.
Then he started talking about Husky Football. "Just the way coach Thomas and coach Sark are, the whole staff and how hyped they can be…I've never been in a meeting, a special teams meeting…I'd never been in a meeting that was so hyped and so much fun before," he said. "Washington has always been there, checking in with my coach - wondering how I'm doing and wondering what I'm getting better at and stuff like that."
At the time of Coleman's commitment, he had standing offers from Washington, Boise State, Utah, Oregon State, UCLA, Nevada, San Diego State and Fresno State.
"Lavon, in general, is just a bigger back," coach Jones said. "He's a legitimate 5-11, 205, 210. He's got that all-around 4.5, 4.6 speed. He can stop and move and catch the ball out of the backfield. He kind of fits that Chris Polk realm of what U-Dub offensively wants to do. He's big enough in the backfield to pass protect and do those things. I think he's a good fit for Washington. I know for Lavon, it's been tough to have so many offers and have all these great opportunities to go to college and ultimately you can pick one, so it's been pretty tough on him to finalize things."
"I'm a power back, mainly," added Coleman. "I can be an every-down back, I can be a workhorse if you need me to. At times I can still be the first-down, go-to guy. It depends on how they want to use me."
Like his future teammate Qualls, Coleman felt the Huskies were the right fit for a while - but held off on making a decision. "One reason that held me back was because I want to play in the (Army) All-American Bowl," he said. "I didn't know if committing to Washington would end my chances of playing there because I've already committed to the school. But I found out that it won't, so I have no problem with that."
And now that Lavon Coleman is 'in the boat', he's going to do everything he can to get more players interested in joining him, Qualls and the rest in becoming Huskies.
"Hopefully when they see how good our recruiting class is, they'll enjoy winning and they'll come to U-Dub," Coleman said. "If not, then I hope they just don't mess with us."