Lost in all of the Bobby Petrino hoopla was an inspiring story on the the Plains.
Wednesday, Auburn offensive lineman Shon Coleman returned to practice. But this wasn't just any regular practice. Coleman was back in shoulder pads and had his helmet on two years after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia soon after he signed with the Tigers.
Coleman signed in 2010, but learned two months later that he had leukemia. It cost him his immediate football future, but more importantly, it put him in the ultimate battle for his life. That didn't keep Auburn coach Gene Chizik from keeping Coleman in the Auburn family. Regardless of whether Coleman would ever play football again, Chizik wanted him to attend and graduate from Auburn.
Two years later, Coleman was back and ready to do more than earn a diploma; he was competing on the football field.
"He tried to downplay it, but you could see he was excited and he was happy," defensive lineman Jeff Whitaker told reporters. "I know he was excited about the response that he got. Coach Chiz made him stand up in front of the whole team. Coach Chiz didn't even have to acknowledge it. Once he stood up the whole team gave him a standing ovation."
Coleman won't return to his former football self overnight. It's going to take time some time for him to get back into the swing of things and get his body back into field and playing shape. Auburn's medical staff will be monitoring his every move, as well, making sure he's not doing anything that could put his health at risk.
Regardless, just seeing Coleman, who is cancer free, back in pads and going through the motions must have been quite the sight for his teammates and coaches. Two years removed from being diagnosed, Coleman is looking to make a comeback in football after he could have completely given up on it, and no one would have thought twice about it. No one would have challenged him for thinking of his health and well-being.
But Coleman, who was once a top offensive line prospect coming out of high school, battled through cancer and is looking to battle through football once again.
Chizik said Wednesday that he wasn't sure if Coleman would make an impact on the field this fall, but there's no question his courageous actions in life and in his attempt to return to football have already made an impact on everyone in and around Auburn's program.
"He's extremely excited and I'm excited for him and his family," Chizik said. "You talk about perseverance and commitment, he's worked extremely hard to get to this point. I'm very proud of him."