06/23/04 — Coley to play for BullDawgs

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Coley to play for BullDawgs

By David Williams
Published in Sports on June 23, 2004 1:55 PM

As a football player, Montrell Coley was nearly impossible to stop.

He was a can't-miss NFL prospect that set state and national rushing records at Goldsboro High School in 1996. He was among the top 10 single-season rushers of all-time, surpassing standout backs like Hershel Walker and Earl Campbell.

He excelled at Hampton University, leading the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the nation in rushing in 2000, his senior season.

But somewhere on his way to the pros, Montrell Coley was sidetracked. A short running back from a small, traditionally black college found himself shuffled to the back of the line as bigger backs from more prestigious football schools got the chances that Coley cherished.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers gave Coley a look before the 2000 season, he disappeared from the football radar.

Coley has resurfaced, just as anxious to get to pro football as he ever was. Back in Goldsboro, Coley will play for the semi-pro Goldsboro BullDawgs in the Mason-Dixon League this season. The BullDawgs will begin their season July 17th at home against Fayetteville, with Coley back on the Goldsboro High School field on which he made his fame.

The purpose is for Coley is to get recent game film for his new agent, Art Weiss -- who also handles New York Jet tight end Wayne Chrebet --to show to prospective pro teams. Coley could work not only in the NFL, but also in the Canadian Football League, NFL Europe or the Arena Football League.

It doesn't matter to him.

"I'm just looking to play," said Coley. "I'm not happy when I'm not playing. It's a void I have to fill. Football is what I know and what I love."

Coley had all the credentials to be a standout for a major college -- playing in the Shrine Bowl game, an all-state performer whose 3,456 career yards dazzled scouts and made his college recruitment one of the most talked-about events of the year.

In the end he chose Hampton, a decision Coley knew was risky. He would not get the major exposure at Hampton that he would at Tennessee or Notre Dame, both of whom were among his suitors.

"It was the best choice to make with my grades and SAT scores," he said, "A lot of schools backed out thinking I would not be eligible, and I was."

After his outstanding career at Hampton -- he scored 28 touchdowns and set the MEAC rushing record -- Coley went to the Hula Bowl game and had a nice showing, scoring a touchdown. But his height -- Coley stands at five feet, seven and a half inches -- and his small-school background proved to work against him with professional scouts.

While high school teammates David Thornton and Travis Coleman both made it into NFL uniforms, Coley still seeks his chance. He works out in local gyms and attends BullDawg practices, preparing to get back into uniform for the first time since 2001.

Judging by his exposure to the pro game, Coley feels he has the tools to play.

"The biggest difference in the pro game and college is the angles," he said. "They do what they have to do to get you the ball. They take better pursuit angles -- that's what makes the game faster."

Coley hopes this summer of football will lead to bigger things. His dreams have not died -- and he's ready to prove himself all over again.