Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell UTC's B.J. Coleman practices at Scrappy Moore Field. Coleman recently transferred from UT Knoxville.
Even before he left Knoxville, the hype had begun. When he actually signed with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the expectations went into overdrive.
B.J. Coleman -- a hometown hero who set numerous passing records at McCallie, earned two Mr. Football awards and spent two years with Tennessee's Volunteers -- was already being regarded as a savior for the downtrodden program that won just one game last season.
All that talk made Coleman a little uncomfortable since he hadn't yet played a down for the Mocs, or even been through a practice. It's still a bit awkward because of the attention the popular and recognizable 6-foot-3, 225-pounder gets wherever he goes.
He loves the enthusiasm about the upcoming season, "but it's not about one person, ever," Coleman said Wednesday afternoon from near the top of the stands at Spears Stadium. He was watching the McCallie football team, including his brother Jarrod, go through a workout.
"It's got to be about 22 guys all working together, not one," he said. "Everybody has been waiting for so long for something positive to happen (for UTC), and I think with this new coaching staff and the new attitude they bring, it's on the rise. I think it's fixing to break wide open."
Coleman is a self-described "talker," and right now his favorite subject is not himself -- not even close -- but the Mocs, new coach Russ Huesman and the program's potential.
"I'm very blessed to be a part of what (Huesman's) doing, and I think this program is going to be very, very successful in the future," he said.
By transferring to UTC, the former four-star recruit didn't just return to Chattanooga to play for Local U. Coleman said there's a much more personal connection involved because he'll be following in the footsteps of his two biggest influences: his father, Bryon, and former McCallie coach Ralph Potter.
"Coach Potter had the opportunity to play for UTC. My dad played for UTC. It's a special thing," he said. "I'm not walking into anything that I don't already know about."
Any questions he has about recent Mocs history can be answered by his roommate, Joel Bradford, a redshirt sophomore like Coleman who was moved from wide receiver to safety in the spring. Asked how much he was enjoying having his old McCallie teammate back in town and on his team, Bradford beamed from ear to ear.
"Actually, it's been pretty awesome," said Bradford, who picked off a Coleman pass during Thursday's 7-on-7 workout.
Bradford said the two of them picked up right where they left off as high school seniors, which means they're having a blast turning everything they do into a competition. Whether it's football or golf or swimming or anything else, they both want to win.
"I beat him by three strokes on the golf course the other day. We bet a movie on it, so he's got to take me to a movie," said Bradford, adding that they'll be seeing "The Hangover."
Coleman has spent plenty of time on football this summer -- working out, learning the playbook, throwing with his new teammates -- but he's also been on the golf course a great deal.
Not only has he played often -- "He can kill the ball," Bradford said -- but he's also worked as a caddie at The Honors Course. And yes, the hype has followed him there, too.
One day, Coleman carried the bag of Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, with whom Coleman met in April when he made his decision to transfer.
"That was a little different," Coleman said. "I don't hold any grudges. It was a blessing for me to go to the University of Tennessee, and I'm very thankful for those years that I had because they taught me a lot."
During their round, Coleman was reminded again of what his return means to people in town. After they finished the 14th hole, Hamilton walked over to the snack shack and began talking with the woman working there, Coleman said.
"The lady was a big UT fan and Mr. Hamilton said she should come up for some games," Coleman said. "She said, 'Well, we're excited for UTC and we had one of the UT boys come down to UTC.' And Mr. Hamilton goes, 'We're going to miss him -- he's right over there.' And she got real excited and said 'Ooh, I'm going to be at UTC's games."
Coleman said his caddying days are pretty much over for the summer.
"Golf's great, but I'm ready for football," he said, pausing to watch his brother's side win a tug-of war. "It's going to be great."
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...