As Kyle Coleman raced into the end zone Thursday night completing a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, he tapped the top of his left wrist with his right hand several times, as if trying to get a watch to start.
The outside linebacker’s return was the only touchdown the would score in a 23-13 preseason loss at San Francisco. His display of emotion was clearly within the ’s new touchdown-celebration rules, which have been relaxed to allow for more creativity, but it was virtually impossible to decipher until Coleman explained it after the game.
“I’ve been through a lot, man, and now it’s my time, know what I’m saying?” Coleman, 23, said. “I’m just trying to make something that’s mine. I’ve been going out there every week saying it’s my time to show what I can do, and I feel like I did that tonight.”
Coleman, who may have kept his long-shot hopes of making the team alive, was not drafted in 2016 after playing three seasons at Arkansas State and one at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
He signed with Seattle in June 2016 but was released before the regular season and was unable to find another job in football. The 6-foot-1, 231-pound Coleman returned home to Lewisville, Texas, and took a job with a mortgage-servicing company.
“I was working a desk job and I thought, ‘Man, I probably won’t even play football again,’ ” Coleman said. “New Year’s Day came and I felt like, ‘Man, I can still play.’ I started working out, training.”
Seattle signed Coleman again — this time as a fullback — after a tryout and kept him through organized team activities and the first week of training camp. But Coleman was released on Aug. 8, five days before the preseason opener.
“At first, it gets you down,” Coleman said. “Being human, it beats you down going through that disappointment and having to come back. But I’ve done that my whole life. It’s all part of the game. It makes you hungry.”
Coleman wasn’t out of work for long. He signed with the Chargers as a linebacker on Aug. 15, after starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman suffered a left-ankle injury that will sideline him for two to three months.
Coleman had one tackle in each of his first two preseason games, against New Orleans and the Rams. He was more of a factor in Levi’s Stadium Thursday night, recording three tackles, recovering a fumble and breaking up a pass before his touchdown return.
Coleman drifted back in coverage on his interception, stepped in front of receiver DeAndre Carter’s slant route, picked off a Nick Mullens pass and beat the quarterback to the end zone.
“I recognized the package and formation they had, read the quarterback and made the play,” Coleman said. “I know I wasn’t perfect. I missed assignments, some tackles, and we didn’t win. But I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Coleman will find out Saturday, when the Chargers cut the roster from 90 to 53, if he is good enough to make the team or practice squad. An injury to outside linebacker James Onwualu, who did not play Thursday, has further thinned depth at the position.
Coleman let out a deep sigh before answering a question about cut day.
“It’s nerve-racking, but I’ve put everything I have on the table,” he said. “I feel like God put me here for a reason. I did everything I could do. It’s in his hands, man.”
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