This week we were fortunate enough to spend some time speaking with Johnathan Coats, a Defensive End (turned DT) from Stony Brook.
After a stellar high school football career at Edison High School in Elmira Heights, NY, Coats (6’4”, 250) went on to Valley Forge Military College where he dominated as a defensive end. A natural leader by example, Coats was immediately named team captain and earned 1st Team All-Conference honors both years he played there.
Coats transferred to Stony Brook and after redshirting for a year, picked up where he left off. Demonstrating his team-first attitude, when Stony Brook had a need at DT, Coats volunteered to move inside despite being a natural defensive end given his size and quickness. He made 2nd Team All-Big South in 2011 and 1st Team-All Big South his senior year in 2012. He was named team captain in 2012 and earned the Frank Conti Workhorse Award in both 2011 and 2012 which is awarded to the Stony Brook player who best exemplifies consistent drive and determination both on/off the football field. It is the team’s most prestigious award.
Below are some excerpts from my conversation with him:
ON GROWING UP IN A SMALL TOWN (ELMIRA HEIGHTS, NY): Elmira was kind of a small area, you know that, but I have 2 borthers and a sister. I have my dad and mom. We didn’t really have much growing up in Elmira. It was kind of a sad area. My dad ended up getting us out of there moving to the Elmira Heights area. It was a lot better at the time. Growing up my mom was really big into sports. My dad wasn’t so much, but my mom was an addict. She definitely pushed us. We signed up for a lot of stuff growing up like teeball, basketball, stuff like that. She pushed us to keep us involved. and to try to stay on the right track. The area was kind of rough, and my brother was kind of going down the wrong road.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO PLAYING FOOTBALL COMPETITIVELY?: When we moved to the Heights area my mom was just trying to keep us busy. She was always busy working a couple of jobs. My dad was always working and stuff, too. My mom was jsut trying to keep us involved, so she would sign us up for leagues. At the time I wasn’t really big on football when I was younger, I was just kind like "oh I’ll just go play," whatever. But the more and more I got into it, starting with little league. I made a lot of good friends I knew were playing, so I got more into it. It just became more competittve and I wanted to be with my friends. If it was what they were doing I wanted to do it, too. It just kinda carried on from there, I started playing more and more and started to enjoy it more and more.
WHEN DID YOU THINK YOU COULD DO THIS PROFESSIONALLY?: It was probably once I got into Stony Brook. Once I got there I finally got a chance to really get a hold on the game. Before I got to stony brook, I went to military college. And everybody’s dream was just to get to a bigger school, D1, etc. For me I just wanted to keep playing. It didn't matter where I ended up. And then, nobody really wanted me. I didn’t have any good looks coming out of Valley Forge. And I asked if there was any way I could do a walk on. And they told me they would accept me on. I got in with the guys, and just kind picked up on things. I was a little rusty at first, but once I was around the team, I started developing skills I never thoguht I’d have had in the past with two-a-days, spring ball. The way we train here. The past 2 years have helped me be ready to move on to the next level.
WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED?: The support I have at home. I’ve come a long way from such a small area from a football program at Edison highg school that no longer exists. The motivation from coming from such a small area. I have a lot of followers. A lot of poelple that believe in me to go on. And I’ve opened the eyes of a lot of kids that looked up to me being an athlete coming out of such a small school. Basically people encourage me saying look you know you definitely can do it. Coming out of high school I was told I wouldn’t get higher than a D3 school. That’s definitely a motivator for me. I work hard. I’ve just got a motor. I don’t want to settle for just good. I want to be great.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON THE MOST AS A PLAYER? I need more speed off the line I want to make sure my first steps have a little more power, maybe some more hands. For me I was an underweight DT. If I could get to the outside, I could be a better pass rusher.
OFF THE FIELD? I haven’t really had any problems off the field. I graduated. My grades have been good. I stay involved. I help out with the team/training at Stony Brook. I want to keep a positive attitude, and not let anything get in my way. I’m not interested in partying. I want to stay focused, make sure I have a successful career.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’RE AFRAID OF? I don’t really have any fear. I ‘ve had doubters. I wouldn’t want me getting that far bringing more enemies on me. My name speaks for itself. People know who I am. I stay involved. Keeping up with the people who follow me. I want to keep cool. They tell you not to worry about what other people think.
John will be at the Stony Brook Pro Day March 22nd.
If you missed the first episode of "Character Guys" featuring William Hollis and Brandon O'Brien, here it is: