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Worth the wait

Even without No. 1 pick, Bucs get their man in Coleman

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 12:41 AM

  Cosey Coleman Cosey Coleman will get to learn from veteran guard Randall McDaniel in Tampa Bay. Andy Lyons/Allsport

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Cosey Coleman couldn't bear to watch the NFL Draft on television.

Tampa Bay showed the most interest in the Tennessee offensive lineman the past two months and he was nervous about where he might wind up after the Buccaneers' blockbuster trade for Pro Bowl receiver Keyshawn Johnson left the team without a first-round pick.

"That kind of hurt me when I saw that," the 6-foot-4, 317-pound guard said Saturday night. "I still knew some other teams were looking at me. But I kind of knew that Tampa had the most interest."

It turns out that Coleman, who spent most of the day on a front porch in Stone Mountain, Ga., instead of camped out in front of the TV, was still the Bucs' man. The team traded up six spots in the second round to select him No. 51 overall.

"I started crying, honestly. I had to shed some tears," he said of his reaction to taking the telephone from his brother and hearing from coach Tony Dungy that Tampa Bay swapped picks with Carolina to ensure the Bucs would get him.

"When I think of the Bucs, I think of a young, upcoming team. I look at the Bucs as like the 49ers of the '80s, but in the new millennium," Coleman added. "Because of the talent they have or possess, they are one of the teams that are going to be good for several years to come."

And Coleman, who left Tennessee following his junior season, figures in that future.

The acquisition of Johnson for two first-round picks, plus the addition to Pro Bowlers Randall McDaniel and Jeff Christy to the offensive line, gave the Bucs the luxury of going into the draft looking for depth -- not starters.

Coleman won't be expected to play a lot as a rookie and is looking forward to learning from experienced players like McDaniel and Christy, who filled needs at left guard and center.

"That's two of the best, if not the best, that's playing right now at their positions," Coleman said. "Any time you can be in an environment like that, you can't do nothing but get better and learn from them."

Coleman was the sixth Tennessee player selected in the first or second round. General manager Rich McKay described him as a "big, huge, powerful man" who the Bucs probably would have considered late in the first round if they hadn't sent the 13th and 27th picks to the New York Jets for Johnson.

"I don't know if we would have taken him, but we would have considered him because that's where we rated him," McKay said.

"We really felt going into the draft that we wanted to get a young, top-flight lineman who didn't need to come in and play right away, but rather to develop and become a starter over time."

To guarantee they'd get Coleman, the Bucs gave up a fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall) in addition to exchanging positions with Carolina in the second round. Dungy said it was a small price to pay to get the player Tampa Bay wanted.

"We felt like now was the time to bring a young guy into the fold," Dungy said, adding he was concerned Coleman might not last until No. 57 with Kansas City and Minnesota drafting just ahead of the Bucs.

Coleman was an All-American as a junior and decided to leave school early because he had accomplished all of his goals, including winning a national championship in 1998. He was disappointed to see several offensive lineman picked before him, but felt everything worked out for the best.

"Sometimes things work in mysterious ways," he said. "This is a classic example of that."

The Bucs added depth on defense with their third-round pick, No. 90 overall, selecting Miami linebacker Nate Webster.

A junior with the Hurricanes last season, Webster applied to enter the draft in January and immediately tried to rescind the decision. The NCAA ruled last month that he could not play another year at Miami.

Dungy said the six-foot, 225-pound Webster is the prototype speedy, but undersized kind of player the Bucs like for their defense. As a rookie, he'll be expected to contribute on special teams and back up Jamie Duncan, who'll take over the starting middle linebacker job vacated by Hardy Nickerson.


 
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