I was looking through old baseball cards recently, because that is something I like to do, and stumbled up on this American beauty:
Curious about exactly how many hundreds of stolen bases Vince Coleman had in 1986, I flipped it over only to discover “Vince attended NFL Redskins’ [sic] mini-camp in 1982″:
Wait, what? Then I said, to myself, Internet don’t fail me now, and it didn’t. From the Chicago Tribune in June ’85:
Vince Coleman`s feet were not just made for running. The St. Louis Cardinals` fleet rookie, who leads the league in stolen bases, was also an outstanding punter in college.
He`s the cousin of Minnesota Vikings` punter Greg Coleman. Vince kicked for Florida A&M and tried out with the Washington Redskins at a minicamp in 1982. The Redskins wanted to make him a wide receiver, so he opted for baseball.
A punter? That is not what I would’ve expected. Receiver sounds more like it, but, no, he could really punt. From Sports Illustrated that same month:
Vince followed [his cousin] Greg to Florida A & M, where he led the nation in stolen bases one year and served as the Rattlers’ punter and placekicker for four years. His kickoffs were rarely returned, and his punting (he had a 41.1-yard average as a senior) earned him the ABC-Chevrolet Player of the Game award against Miami in 1980 and an invitation to the Freedom Bowl Classic all-star game after the 1981 season. “He was as good at football as he was at baseball, if you can believe that,” says A & M football coach Rudy Hubbard. “He could have made it. But you see so few blacks kicking in the NFL…. I think there’s really a bias there that kept Vince from getting a fair opportunity.”
Coleman had a minicamp tryout with the Redskins in May 1982 but was put at wide receiver because of his speed. “They wouldn’t let me kick,” he says. Coleman, a lifetime Dallas Cowboys fan, had often dreamed of catching passes like Jacksonville’s own Bob Hayes, but it was not to be. He sprained an ankle, sat out most of the camp and decided baseball was his calling. Drafted in the 10th round by the Cardinals in June 1982, he signed immediately. “At the time I didn’t even know which baseball teams were in which league,” he says.
So there you have it. It was racism that kept Coleman from making it as a punter with the Redskins. How else do you explain them letting Jeff Hayes (whoever that is) punt 51 balls that year at a 38-yard clip. YOU CAN’T.