From praying to celebrating, UT‘s Coleman basks in Super Bowl win

New England Patriots cornerback Justin Coleman at Wednesday’s media gathering at JW Marriott Galleria in Houston(Photo: Christi Johnson/USA TODAY)

5 CONNECTCOMMENTEMAILMORE

Justin Coleman trusted Tom Brady and his teammates, but he figured asking for a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt.

Standing on the New England Patriots’ sideline on Sunday night, the former University of Tennessee defensive back received the answer he wanted.

“I was so nervous. I was praying, ‘God, it’s the fourth quarter. Now it is time for us to do some great things,’” Coleman said. “The next thing you know miracle plays started happening.”

Trailing by 25 points early in the second half, the Patriots completed the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Coleman, 23, is in his second season with the Patriots. He started one game this season and had eight total tackles and three passes defended.

Coleman was inactive for the Super Bowl.  He warmed up with his teammates in uniform and then changed into street clothes to join them on the sideline once the game began.

“At first it was difficult not understanding why I wasn’t dressing, but then I kind of realized it is not all about me,” Coleman said on Monday night once the Patriots returned to Foxboro. “It is something that they think will work in the Super Bowl and as you can tell it paid off. I was just ready to cheer on my boys.”

Staring at a 21-3 halftime deficit, Coleman said the Patriots never lost faith a comeback was possible.

“Everybody was quiet but still focused,” Coleman said. “Coming out of the locker room you could just feel the energy with everyone knowing we were going to come back and win the game. I was talking to a few of the players and they were saying, ‘Man. This is a crazy game because we are going to come back and win this game. I don’t care how far a deficit it is.’”

Coleman, a Georgia native, grew up a Falcons fan and realizes Atlanta’s second-half collapse cast a pall over his home state.

“It was really all about New England for me because I play for them,” Coleman said. “But it was kind of cool to play the hometown team.”

Although Coleman didn’t get on the field for the Super Bowl victory, he takes pride in the role he filled for the Patriots.

“I am competing in practice every day against our receivers and getting them better and getting my teammates better in all ways,” he said. “I just do my job and do my part so that I won’t let the team down. That is what I like about the mentality here, everybody works hard and everybody works for the same goal.”

A three-year starter at Tennessee, Coleman finished his career with 157 tackles and five interceptions.

He went undrafted in 2015 and signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, but was released after the 2015 season. He was signed and released by the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks before getting a second chance with the Patriots and sticking on the roster.

In the aftermath of the Super Bowl win, Coleman realized how fortunate he was to get a ring so early in his career.

“Everyone was just all smiles and hugging each other and people were even crying,” said Coleman, whose family attended the game. “Some guys had been in the league for a while and never made it to the Super Bowl, so everybody was very happy to be a part of the team.”

Former Tennessee defensive back Justin Coleman celebrated a Super Bowl title on Monday night with the New England Patriots. (Photo: Brandon Wade/Associated Press)

Once the parade through Boston ends on Tuesday and Coleman packs up his locker, he is planning to swing through Knoxville to visit his girlfriend’s family and some former UT teammates.

“I talked to a few people, but I couldn’t get back to everybody,” Coleman said. “I had like 80 messages, so I couldn’t respond to everyone on my phone. But it felt good to have that support.”

As he prepared to get some much-needed sleep on Monday night after “we partied,” Coleman was still trying to process how everything happened – from praying one minute to celebrating an epic win for the ages the next.

“It just kind of hit me that we have won the Super Bowl and in dramatic form,” Coleman said. “It is like one of the best feelings you can ever feel to know you are the world’s best team.”

5 CONNECTCOMMENTEMAILMORE