published Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Quarterback B.J. Coleman not only former UTC football player with NFL goals

Former UTC receiver Joel Bradford is hoping for a chance at playing in the NFL.
Former UTC receiver Joel Bradford is hoping for a chance at playing in the NFL.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

At the moment, Cleveland Browns cornerback Buster Skrine is the only former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football player on an NFL roster. But he's not the only former Moc pursuing a professional career.

Projected as a late-round draft prospect, quarterback B.J. Coleman is one of several past Mocs who will participate in UTC's pro day on April 2. Joining him will be two-time All-Southern Conference wide receiver Joel Bradford, all-conference defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris and possibly a few other players.

The 6-foot Bradford was one of the best wideouts in the Football Championship Subdivision the past two seasons with 134 receptions for 1,944 yards. But his lack of size and Skrine-like speed has kept him off the NFL radar. Since Dec. 27, Bradford has been training in Nashville and he said he's gained 14 pounds, so he's up to 172.

"My whole life I've been trying to gain weight, but it just doesn't really happen," Bradford said. "I've been working hard every day and doing everything I can to be ready."

Craig Camay is kicking in the Arena Football League for the Iowa Barnstormers, the Des Moines-based team best known for being where quarterback Kurt Warner got his start. The Barnstormers picked up Camay last month after the former UTC All-American was cut by the Tampa Bay Storm on Feb. 1.

Camay signed with the Storm before the final game of the 2011 season, after completing his season with the Trenton Steel of the Southern Indoor Football League. Camay was the SIFL's special teams MVP after a stellar season in which he made a 61-yard field goal.

Camay said he likes playing in the AFL, where nearly everyone but quarterbacks is paid $400 a game, though players also have many of their expenses paid for by the team.

"I've got a nice apartment, fully furnished; our meals are paid for -- it's a really good situation," he said.

But he still wants a shot at the NFL, and Camay said he will try to make it to Chattanooga for the pro day.

"My main goal is to go to the NFL, but the Arena [league] works out for me in that I can have an actual job," he said. "I caddie while I'm kicking, so I'm making good money caddying, but I'm also playing football. It's a decent lifestyle."

Wide receiver Jeremy Grier, all-conference as a UTC senior in 2003, also is in the AFL. Grier plays wideout and linebacker for the Georgia Force and has returned an interception for a touchdown this season.

Two former Mocs with markedly different careers are playing in the Indoor Football League this season. Wideout Terrell Owens, a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection, is playing for, and co-owns, the Allen (Texas) Wranglers. He has 13 receptions for 135 yards and five touchdowns in three games.

Linebacker Joseph Thornton is spending his second season in the state of Washington playing for the Tri-Cities Fever, which is based in Kennewich -- about 220 miles east of Portland. Thornton, All-SoCon as a senior in 2009, is second on the Fever defense with 24 tackles after four games.

Running back Eldra Buckley, UTC's last 1,000-yard rusher (in 2006), spent time on the Detroit Lions' roster last season.

If he can't hook on with an NFL team, Bradford said he'd be open to playing in Canada or possibly the AFL. He has his eye on coaching one day but said he doesn't have a timeline for when he wants to head in that direction.

"I'm not really even thinking about that at this point," he said. "I'm just trying to get ready for the pro day."

Coleman, who attended UTC's practice Friday, got the cast off his injured right (throwing) hand earlier this month and said that he's getting strength back. He was in Nashville for most of this week training with Bradford before returning home to prepare for the pro day.

about John Frierson...

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 ...

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