When Larnel Coleman saw UMass teammates Andy Isabella and Isaiah Rodgers get taken in the NFL Draft the past two seasons, he started to truly believe that the plan he envisioned for himself was possible.
The 6-foot-7, 307-pound offensive lineman from Malden, who attended St. Clement High School (Medford), has a chance to be selected in one of the late rounds this year. Dane Brugler of The Athletic views him as a “sleeper” who could catch people by surprise.
In an interview with Boston.com, Coleman referred to himself as a positive person who has embraced every opportunity he’s been given. He sees himself as an underdog who loves to prove people wrong.
“That’s always been how I’ve looked at myself,” Coleman said. “It always keeps me humble, keeps me hungry, and keeps me grinding each and every day.”
Coleman was named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, which features the top interior linemen in the Football Bowl Subdivision, as a redshirt senior this past season. He called himself competitive and hardworking, and he noted that his football IQ helps separate him from other players.
He said playing at St. Clement – a tiny Catholic school that closed in 2017 – helped him realize that nothing was given. Coleman maximized the opportunity in front of him and worked diligently to get his name out there despite having less exposure than many players with his talent would have.
“I ended up finally getting looked at,” Coleman said, “which was another fire that was started, and pushed me further, further, and further, and has allowed me to work on my craft more each and every day so that I can get to where I’m at right now.”
Coleman plans to watch the Draft in Malden with his family. Even if his name isn’t called, he’ll certainly have a chance to earn a training camp invite. If it is called, he’ll continue a promising trend for the Minutemen.
UMASS OT Larnel Coleman is a great upside pick on day three. Explosive player with 36 inch arms. Gave Milton Williams some issues in 2019 with his length. Once he gets some NFL coaching (especially regarding his footwork), he should be a solid pro pic.twitter.com/k0T5ENWwXW
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) April 20, 2021
Here’s a look at the rest of the draft prospects with local ties:
Pat Freiermuth, Penn State TE
A self-proclaimed “plain and simple guy,” Freiermuth describes his game as old-fashioned and gritty.
The 6-foot-5, 251-pound tight end from Merrimac, who is projected by many to go late in the first round or sometime in the second or third round of the upcoming NFL Draft, takes pride in making the fundamentally sound play over the flashy one.
“I’m not one of those guys who is going to make a frickin’ spectacular juke move or anything like that,” Freiermuth told the Globe. “I’m a guy who’s going to catch the ball consistently, make the blocks that are key, and run over guys.”
He said he’s heard the 21-to-25 range, 33-34 range, or 44-55 range as possible options for when he could be drafted, noting that he’s hit it off with the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kwity Paye, Michigan DE
The 6-foot-4, 272-pound potential first-rounder played his high school ball at Bishop Hendricken Catholic High School in Warwick, Rhode Island. Originally from Guinea, he moved to Rhode Island as a young child and eventually starred for the Wolverines.
Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State CB
The 5-foot-10, 183-pound cornerback out of Florida State, who is slated as a likely first or second-round pick, is the son of former Patriots standout Asante Samuel.
Samuel Jr. was a first-team All-ACC selection and became just the third Seminole since 2000 with at least three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in a season.
His father was with the Patriots from 2003-2007, when Asante Jr. was a young child.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse CB
Melifonwu, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound cornerback, from South Grafton, starred at Syracuse and was named an All-ACC selection.
He redshirted in year one, played in nine games the following season, registered a team-high eight pass breakups as a sophomore, and accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl this past year as a junior.
Melifonwu was the fifth-ranked prospect from Massachusetts and the No. 81 athlete in the Class of 2017, according to ESPN. He’s projected to go in the second or third round.
Hunter Long, Boston College TE
Long, a 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end who grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire, is expected to be one of the first tight ends off the board along with Freiermuth.
“It’s going to be a dream come true,” Long said of getting drafted, following BC’s Pro Day. “I think I’m going to be pretty speechless when it happens.”
Fellow teammates Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson, both linebackers, could possibly be taken in the late rounds.
Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss TE
Tight end is the position with the most local ties, and the Providence, Rhode Island-raised, 6-foot-4, 240-pound Yeboah is one of the top options.
He moved to Pennsylvania during high school, started his career at Temple University, committed to Baylor University, then wrapped up his college career at Ole Miss.
Sam Cooper, Merrimack OL
A 6-foot-2, 305-pound lineman who attended Conwell-Egan Catholic in Maine, Cooper started his college career at the University of Maine and finished it at Merrimack College. Cooper is also a sleeper in Brugler’s eyes.
Noah Gray, Duke TE
Gray, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound Duke senior from Leominster, has a chance to be drafted in one of the late rounds, as does Ben Mason, a 6-foot-3, 254-pound TE from Newtown, Connecticut, who was voted the “Toughest Player” at Michigan twice.
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