With show-stopping FSU debut, Keon Coleman has a new home ... and proved a point to an old one

ORLANDO — Keon Coleman plays with a boulder on his shoulders, a weight resting on his back.

You can’t tell much. After all, he seems to bring down virtually every pass thrown his way.

Didn’t you watch Sunday night, when he hauled in nine passes — many of them contested — and three touchdowns? Didn’t you see him when he leaped over the heads of LSU players? When he corralled throws few could have? When he helped lead the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles to a romping 45-24 win over No. 5 LSU?

You can’t see that boulder, but it’s there, says Randy Livingston, Keon’s AAU basketball coach and longtime family friend.

He's carried it everywhere — to Michigan State, where, against so many doubters, he played two sports; to the hardwood, where he scored more than 2,000 points in high school; to the football field, where he far exceeded that three-star recruiting ranking.

And he brought it here, to muggy Orlando, where he shined in front of a national audience in college football’s premier Week 1 matchup and against the team he detests most of all.

Coleman is from Louisiana.

“Oh, it was good,” said his mother, Ravin Savoy, “especially against LSU. God is blessing him. God says to make your enemies your footstool. He did it.”

It mattered not which one of LSU’s defensive backs found himself blanketing Coleman. Pick one. Anyone. The result was the same.

A catch. Maybe a touchdown. A miraculous reception. A can-you-believe-it moment. One after another. Without him, who knows if the Seminoles pull away in the second half, if they turn a tight game into a rout in the end.

Coleman had touchdowns of 40, 21 and 7 yards, all from QB Jordan Travis, whose nifty feet, precision and stat line (23 of 31 for 342 yards) will have FSU dreaming of the CFP. It helps to have two potential Day 1 NFL Draft picks at your disposal (6-foot-7 Johnny Wilson took LSU for another seven catches and 107 yards).

Coleman’s catches were the most marvelous. In his first game in an FSU uniform, he did it in the biggest of spotlights: in front of 75 credentialed NFL scouts in the press box and millions watching at home on ABC.

Florida State's Keon Coleman runs downfield for a 40-yard touchdown against LSU on Sept. 3. (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Best of all, though, it came against, well, you know.

“He was ready and determined,” said older brother Kaylan. “Competing against the home team and in front of the whole world… Against LSU? Shiiiii*.”

Coleman is from Opelousas, Louisiana, a town of 15,000 located 50 miles due west of Baton Rouge. Despite heroics on the court and on the field, the Tigers didn’t offer him a scholarship. There are reasons for it. For one, Coleman wanted to play basketball as well as football — a more difficult juggle in Baton Rouge. The Tigers signed other receivers within the state that year, those seen as more advanced. Even Livingston acknowledges that Coleman was a bit raw. But he knew he’d blossom into a star, and he tried to tell anyone who would listen.

In Baton Rouge, they didn’t.

“He felt slighted,” Livingston said. “He’s got a boulder on his shoulders. I think he wanted to play against LSU. I knew from the time he signed he was looking forward to this game.”

That boulder has deep roots, deeper than some recruiting miss. Coleman is the son of a single mom who raised five children. Times were tough. The streets were tougher.

She sought help from folks like Livingston and Jonathan Fisher to help with her two daughters and to keep her three boys from finding trouble.

“He’s had hardships that most kids would struggle with,” said Fisher, a director at Hope for Opelousas, a non-profit focused on community development, outreach and support. “He made it because of his mom. She did everything to make sure he never got away. She used resources like us.”

Florida State's Keon Coleman, left, makes a reception over LSU safety Major Burns (8) for a 21-yard touchdown. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Florida State's Keon Coleman, left, makes a reception over LSU safety Major Burns (8) for a 21-yard touchdown. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Without Hope for Opelousas, maybe the Colemans aren’t here right now, in Camping World Stadium celebrating in their Keon shirts and jerseys while waiting for him to exit the locker room. Maybe Keon’s not here either.

“Where we are from, there’s a lot of crime. It’s a hard place,” said Fisher. “We kept him in sports. We kept him off the streets.”

Coleman has always been gifted, ever since Livingston saw him play as a young kid. He recruited him on his Nike AAU basketball team. Coleman only began playing football as an eighth-grader and didn’t develop until late. His recruiting options were a bit limited for someone who wanted to play two sports. He at first committed to Kansas before de-committing.

He was hours from signing a scholarship at Tulane as a two-way player. And then, at the very last minute, Michigan State swooped into the picture. Mel Tucker and Tom Izzo landed their prize — a “steal” of a pick, recruiting experts called it at the time.

He played football and basketball as a freshman, but he erupted onto the scene as a sophomore for Tucker, leading MSU in receptions, yards and touchdown catches. Over the offseason, he entered the portal.

How good is he at basketball?

“Izzo told me last year, if he would have been on the basketball team last year, they would have made the Final Four,” Livingston said.

As a transfer, LSU was never really an option. Livingston is close with LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, both Louisiana guys. But Coleman wanted to play against LSU — not with them.

During the postgame news conference on Sunday night, Coleman at first downplayed any extra motivation against LSU. And then he quipped, “It added a little salt to the wound. That’s my home state. A lot of my family are fans of them, but I ain’t so much a fan of them. I’m a Seminole now.”

And so, finally, he got his revenge. On the biggest and brightest stage yet, Keon Coleman and his boulder bashed the Tigers.

“It’s been so many years of him against everybody else,” said Savoy, through some tears. “It’s always him against everybody else. No one believed in him. Even them from his home place.”