When Larnel Coleman saw UMass teammates Andy Isabella and Isaiah Rodgers get taken in the NFL Draft the past two seasons, he started to truly believe that the plan he envisioned for himself was possible.
The 6-foot-7-inch, 307-pound offensive lineman from Malden, who attended St. Clement High School in Medford, has a chance to be selected in the late rounds this year. Dane Brugler of The Athletic views him as a “sleeper” who could catch people by surprise.
Coleman sees himself as an underdog who loves to prove people wrong.
“That’s always been how I’ve looked at myself,” he said. “It always keeps me humble, keeps me hungry, and keeps me grinding each and every day.”
As a redshirt senior this past season, Coleman was named to the Outland Trophy watch list, which features the top interior linemen in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He believes his football IQ helps separate him from other players.
He said playing at St. Clement — a tiny Catholic school that closed in 2017 — helped him realize that nothing is a given. He worked diligently to get his name out there despite having less exposure than many players with his talent would have.
“I ended up finally getting looked at,” Coleman said, “which was another fire that was started, and pushed me further, further, and further, and has allowed me to work on my craft more each and every day so that I can get to where I’m at right now.”
Coleman plans to watch the draft in Malden with his family. Even if his name isn’t called, he’ll certainly have a chance to earn a training camp invite. If it is called, he’ll continue a promising trend for the Minutemen.
Here are other players with New England ties who could be drafted:
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State: A self-proclaimed “plain and simple guy,” Freiermuth describes his game as old-fashioned and gritty.
The 6-5, 251-pound tight end from Merrimac is projected to go late in the first round or perhaps in the second or third.
“I’m not one of those guys who is going to make a spectacular juke move or anything like that,” he said. “I’m a guy who’s going to catch the ball consistently, make the blocks that are key, and run over guys.”
In talks with team representatives, he said, he hit it off with the Titans, Steelers, Jets, and Jaguars.
Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State: The 5-10, 183-pounder, slated as a likely first- or second-round pick, is the son of former Patriots defensive back Asante Samuel.
Samuel Jr. was a first-team All-ACC selection and just the third Seminole since 2000 with at least three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in a season.
His father was with the Patriots from 2003-07, playing on two Super Bowl winners.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse: The 6-3, 205-pounder from Grafton was an All-ACC selection and is projected to go in the second or third round.
He redshirted in Year 1 at Syracuse, played in nine games the following season, registered a team-high eight pass breakups as a sophomore, and accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl this past year as a junior.
Hunter Long, TE, Boston College: The 6-5, 254-pounder who grew up in Exeter, N.H., is expected to be one of the first tight ends off the board, along with Freiermuth.
“It’s going to be a dream come true,” Long said after BC’s pro day. “I think I’m going to be pretty speechless when it happens.”
BC teammates Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson, both linebackers, could be taken in the late rounds.
Kenny Yeboah, TE, Mississippi: Tight end is the position with the most local ties, and the Providence-raised Yeboah (6-4, 240) is one of the top options.
He moved to Pennsylvania during his high school years, started his college career at Temple, committed to Baylor, then wrapped up at Ole Miss.
Sam Cooper, OL, Merrimack: The 6-2, 305-pounder started his college career at the University of Maine and finished it at Merrimack. Cooper is also a sleeper in Brugler’s eyes.
Noah Gray, TE, Duke: The 6-4, 240-pounder from Leominster has a chance to be taken in the late rounds.
Ben Mason, TE, Michigan: The 6-3, 254-pounder from Newtown, Conn., was voted the “Toughest Player” at Michigan twice.
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan: The 6-4, 272-pound native of Guinea, a potential first-rounder, played his high school ball at Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, R.I.