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Kendall Coleman Combines Pass Rushing and Poetry

For the senior defensive end, his love of bringing down opposing quarterbacks is matched only by his aptitude for poetry.

Portrait of Kendall Coleman

Kendall Coleman’s life is in his hands—strong hands that have attacked hundreds of jerseys, including that of West Virginia quarterback Jack Allison, whom Coleman sacked three times in the 2018 Camping World Bowl. 

Hands that clenched in agony in 2017, when Coleman tore his left labrum against Louisville, causing him to consider giving up the game. 

Hands that dance across his keyboard, while typing a research paper for Falk College or composing a poem for his own enjoyment.

Hands that tell stories.

“Inspiration can strike anywhere,” says the 6’3”, 253-pound senior. “One day, I got off the bus near Crouse College, as the sun was setting. The sky was beautiful, with lots of purples, pinks and blues. I took a picture on my iPhone, so that I could write about it later.”

On and off the field, the Indianapolis native is a study in creativity. Such talent has made him one of the ACC’s top pass rushers as well as an emerging scholar of human development and family science .

“Everything I do has a little bit of heart and gut,” Coleman says. “You can’t teach intuition, but you can do things to improve it.” Such as writing poetry. 

Coleman traces his literary zeal to the seventh grade, where he was asked to write about a poet of his liking. His first choice was the rapper Common, but his mother, Nikki, redirected him toward the jazz-inflected work of Langston Hughes. Coleman was hooked, but waited a few years before writing his own verse. Since coming to campus, the three-time letter winner has penned dozens of poems about love, loss and coming of age, and has given multiple readings of his work, including one during Remembrance Week .

Poetry also helped him overcome a near career-ending injury during his sophomore year. “Writing has made Kendall more observant—taught him to connect the dots, as a person and a student-athlete,” his mother says.

Coleman hopes the next time he visits Indianapolis, he will be participating in the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. “That would be worth writing about,” he grins, extending a handshake.

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