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Rookie Coleman playfully embraces Buffalo while showing a serious side to filling receiver role

Buffalo Bills Keon Coleman - The Canadian Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Wide-eyed, engaging and athletic, Bills rookie receiver Keon Coleman has much to offer, be it tips on when to land the best deals for winter coats to using his lean 6-foot-4 frame and long muscular arms to snatch balls thrown over his head or behind him.

It’s been that way since April, when Coleman arrived in Buffalo full of wonder and excitement in providing a glimpse into his playful personality a day after the Bills drafted the Florida State player at No. 33.

Sitting at the podium, wearing what’s now become the famous yellow winter coat he bought on sale at Macy’s in the spring, Coleman expressed his love for Buffalo wings, eyed the cookies on a nearby snack bar before sampling one, and reflected on having just filmed a promotional video inside the Bills’ stadium, where he scored three touchdowns.

Only three?

“Hey, it was 30 seconds,” Coleman said, smiling. “That’s a record. Nobody’s ever did that one yet.”

Don’t be fooled by the just-turned 21-year-old’s outgoing nature.

As much as Coleman’s arrival in western New York has captured the imagination of Bills fans, including that of a 10-year-old by wearing the youngster’s hand-made friendship bracelets, there is a serious side to the player being counted upon to fill an essential spot at a retooled receiver position in the wake of Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis’ offseason departures.

“I’m aware of it,” Coleman said, referring to the buzz he’s created.

“The hype can be there all it wants. But I still have to make plays on the field,” he added in early May. “I want to help contribute to wins, so we got to win to make our fans happy. A jacket ain’t going to get that done.”

In the following weeks, Coleman has shown glimpses of his potential, following an All-ACC junior season in which he led the Seminoles with 50 catches for 658 yards and 11 touchdowns. He spent his first two college seasons at Michigan State, where he totaled 65 catches for 848 yards and eight TDs.

Though not considered to have elite speed, Coleman lopes on the field to stay inbounds while catching quick outs from Josh Allen along the sideline. On Thursday, he celebrated a touchdown by happily punting the ball.

On Wednesday, lined up against cornerback Rasul Douglas, Coleman burst past the veteran starter and used his big body to shield the defender while securing a pass thrown behind him.

“He’s young. He’s still trying to learn. I think that’s the thing that helps him the best is just be a learner,” Douglas said of Coleman. “And he’s a cool guy off the field. He’s a joker. He’s funny. He’s chill.”

What Douglas might not know after he skipped Buffalo's voluntary practices is the depth of Coleman’s football acumen.

Coleman has already dug into the Bills past by befriending Hall of Fame receiver Andre Reed.

“I was taught to always respect those that stepped before you,” Coleman said.

As for football IQ, Coleman prides himself in how at college he learned to pore over game film and literally draw out plays on his own. The approach was drilled into him during his freshman season by former NFLer and Spartans receivers coach Courtney Hawkins.

“I didn’t start playing receiver until I really got to college,” said Coleman, a high school quarterback from Louisiana, who chose football over basketball. “Coach Hawkins put me in a room and was like, `This is the capability you have if you lock in and do what you’re supposed to do.′ And ever since, that’s been my mindset.”

Coleman’s willingness to learn stood out to Bills general manager Brandon Beane during the pre-draft scouting process. As much as Beane enjoyed hearing Coleman’s voice pipe up at the other end of the cafeteria during the player’s visit to Buffalo, he also witnessed an intensity behind the smile.

“He’s done a good job to this point of knowing what he doesn’t know, surrounding himself with people that will tell him the truth, not what he wants to hear. And that’s a sign of a guy that knows he’s got work to do,” Beane told The Associated Press this week.

“He ain’t got it all figured out. And it ain’t all going to be perfect,” he added. “But he’s working hard. He’s competitive. And he probably thinks he should’ve been the No. 1 receiver drafted.”

Coleman was the eighth receiver selected and after Buffalo twice traded back in the order. The Bills moved back from 28th, where Kansas City selected Texas receiver Xavier Worthy, and then traded one spot back from No. 32, where Carolina chose South Carolina receiver Xavier Legette.

Beane stood pat to open the second round, with Coleman still available and receiver being Buffalo’s most pressing need.

Coleman accepts the challenge of expectations on a team that returns just one receiver — Khalil Shakir — who has caught a pass from Allen.

“I don’t think it’s anything to just fill,” Coleman said, referring to the shoes he’s being asked to replace. “I’m coming here to be myself, work for everything I’m going to get and hopefully we’re going to win some games. That’s all I have to say about that.”

Coleman's serious side eventually gives way to his outgoing nature.

“That’s just who I am,” he said. “I don’t play the game all mad and serious all the time. We got to be able to loosen up, have some fun and be yourself.”


This story has been corrected to reflect Rasul Douglas' position being cornerback.