Dayton, Ohio, might be his hometown, but Miami will always be a special place for Marco Coleman.
After an impressive career at Georgia Tech, Coleman was selected by the Miami Dolphins No. 12 overall in the 1992 NFL Draft, and he spent the first four seasons of his 14-year career in South Florida, totaling 24 sacks, six forced fumbles, and north of 200 tackles before joining the San Diego Chargers.
Now, 23 years after leaving Miami, Coleman will return to Hard Rock Stadium, although this time, he'll enter through the visitor's locker room as a member of the Oakland Raiders coaching staff.
"It's definitely going to be different, because even after I left Miami as a player, I can't remember actually going back and playing in Miami after I left," said Coleman. "It'll definitely be a little different being in that stadium and being in the visitor's locker room, but that'll be the same in a couple of other places, even like Denver last week, because I spent some time there, but Miami is a special place considering that's where I got drafted, and got where my career started."
While Coleman eventually played another 10 seasons after leaving Miami, the 305 provided a plethora of memorable moments for him, not only off the field – a cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is a pretty sweet deal – but on the field as well.
And when asked about his best memories of his time in Miami, Coleman brings up the 1993 AFC Championship Game, a game that the Dolphins eventually lost 29-10 to the Buffalo Bills, but one that provided a valuable learning experience for the young defensive lineman.
"We lost to Buffalo, but that experience, the speed of the game, the intensity, being out there as a rookie, [with] Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith out there, it was a star-studded cast for the Buffalo Bills," Coleman recounted. "And as a rookie coming in, those were some phenomenal guys, phenomenal football players, so having that experience…. We played them twice that season, but there was a different intensity in that particular game, and I would say that game was a memorable game. We didn't win, but it was my first time going to the playoffs as a rookie, man, it was a pretty good experience."
After stops as a postgame radio analyst for the Jacksonville Jaguars radio network, and then a career in finance, Coleman returned to the NFL earlier this year, and in his first year as a coach is now tasked with molding a young nucleus of defensive linemen for the Silver and Black.
"Marc gives perspective of an ex player," defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. "Obviously, he played a long time in the league. He can kind of relate to the players and what they're going through each and every down. In practice he's helping out a lot with the ends. It's an added value having a guy that's an experienced player. Just getting his coaching career started really here. He's done a good job for us."
"We're getting better, and improving," added Coleman. "That's all we can do. We have younger guys, and also a lot of new guys. I'm excited because last week we played against a good football team, and played a good half of football, and now we just have to put it all together."
As Guenther said, with 14 years of NFL experience under his belt, Coleman has the acute ability to relate to his players, and while there is certainly a learning curve coming out of college and into the pros – Coleman said the speed of the game and complexity of scheme are the biggest adjustments – along with defensive line Coach Mike Trgovac, Coleman is excited about the crop of young players the Raiders currently have on the roster.
During his first professional season, Coleman appeared in all 16 games and tallied six sacks, and he sees the chance for some of the Raiders young defensive lineman to replicate that success for the team this year.
"They come out every day, they're working hard, they're staying in tuned, they're doing all the things for them to have a successful rookie year," Coleman said. "And I think if they can continue to do what they're doing, continue to improve, this'll be a really good season for them."
Much has changed for Coleman since he was a rookie in Miami. He's traded in the East Coast for the West Coast, and the shoulder pads for a whistle, so would he have believed all the way back in 1992 that this is how his story would play out?
"You never know, because as a rookie you just never know exactly, as a matter of fact, you don't think past that day," Coleman said with a chuckle. "So definitely this is something I didn't foresee, looking forward to it. I think it'll be exciting coming back to Miami, but also as a team, for us as the Raiders, getting an opportunity to get on back and play against a good football team, and getting a win."
Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 am PDT.