Nov. 28, 2012
By Eric Dezendorf
Some people like to work where they grow up while others enjoy getting away from home and forging their own path. Deandre Coleman falls into the latter group. The junior defensive lineman from Seattle, Wash., chose to make an 800-mile trip south after finishing at Garfield High School, and now plays hard for the Golden Bears.
"Growing up, I was a big fan of the University of Washington," said Coleman. "Now, I don't like them at all. It's always fun to play them. I used to have a lot of friends play for them but they have all graduated. It's like having a bit of home come down. My whole family likes to come down for the game because they're all Washington fans."
When Coleman was a senior in high school, he was hailed by some as the top recruit from the state of Washington and had every opportunity to stay at home and play for the Huskies. Coleman, however, felt that the Cal coaches were the ones he wanted to play for, and he wanted to get out of Seattle.
"I love the academics at Cal, the closeness of the team and the support that you get down here," Coleman said. "The weather is also great. I love the Bay Area. People out here in the Bay Area are a lot friendlier than the people I knew in Seattle. I got to know people faster."
It's hard to miss the 6-foot-5, 309-pound defensive end who sports a big smile and genial demeanor. The smile and niceties disappear once he puts on his pads. Coleman is one of the fiercest players on Cal's defense. Coleman is both Cal's active career leader in tackles for loss and paces the team in 2012 with a career high in tackles.
Coleman has wanted to play football since he was just 10 years old. At that young age, he had to beg his mom for nearly two weeks in order to get permission to play. Once he did, Coleman immediately excelled at the game.
"I lived a block away from my football field," Coleman said. "I used to be that little kid that watched practice. I wanted to strap up so badly that it was worth it just to watch my friends play. I was always bigger and faster than the other kids, even when I was little, so I played whatever they wanted me to. If we needed a few extra yards on offense they put me in as a running back and I just pounded the ball up the middle."
Clancy Pendergast recognized the talented Coleman as soon as the team's defensive coordinator arrived at Cal in 2010. He has made Coleman an integral part of his defense.
"The one thing you're going to get from Deandre is consistent effort every week," Pendergast said. "He's a very conscientious player and he always wants to do the right thing. He gets better and better every week."
The effort and consistency have shown throughout his career at Cal and though Coleman excels at his job on the football field, he always remembers the big picture, which is part of what led him to Cal in the first place.
"The best thing about Cal football is my teammates," Coleman said. "I also like all the history surrounding Cal and all the NFL players that have come through here. We celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Play this year, and it's a great feeling to know that you are a part of that and playing in the same stadium as some of those greats."
Coleman would like nothing more than to beat Washington today. Cal has not beaten the Huskies since 2008, the season before Coleman arrived in Berkeley, and he has had to listen to a lot of jawing back in his house in Seattle. For Coleman, the rivalry against the Huskies has gotten a little personal.
"Everybody loves Washington back home, so every time I go home, I have to hear a little bit of smack talk about Cal," Coleman said. "It would be great to give some of that talk right back. It's a game like any other. I'm going to come out and play as hard as I can."