Is Erik Coleman’s Starting Spot Safe?

Position Switch or General Decline?

Erik Coleman is by far one of the best leaders on the Atlanta Falcons team. He was a major part of the Falcons amazing turnaround going from the 4-12 debacle in 2007 to the excellent playoff run in 2008. Even though Michael Turner was the biggest name that Thomas Dimitroff grabbed in the 2008 Free Agent period, Erik Coleman may have been just as important for the defense. The free safety, at the time, led a surprising superb defensive effort in 2008 and was essential to the D’s improvement. Although Lawyer Milloy was the leader of the secondary at that point, Coleman was one of the best secondary defenders, much more so than the declining Milloy. Dimitroff surely had a good idea on what was coming with the release of impending free agents Milloy, Keith Brooking, Grady Jackson, Dominique Foxworth, and Michael Boley. The Falcons GM likely was counting on Coleman to become the new leader of the revamped secondary. After a terrific 2008 season at free safety, Coleman switched positions to strong safety to allow Thomas DeCoud to start at free safety. Coleman understandably had some issues with the switch, but was much more of a weakness than many prepared for in 2009. After being the main veteran leader of the secondary, and team overall, there is a possibility he may not even start. The question: was Coleman’s lower play due only to the switch to strong safety, or was there evidence of general decline as he edges towards 30? Let’s dive in………

Stat Line on Coleman

All safeties are combined into the ratings and rankings (free safety and strong safety), so take that into account when looking at the statistics. Also, safeties have different philosophies in different systems such as Cover 2, 4-3, and 3-4 defense, although not the dramatic difference of linebackers. For instance, strong safeties will be more likely to blitz the passer and support the run so they should have a higher run support rating, whereas free safeties are more cover the pass more so they should have higher coverage ratings.

2008 (Free Safety) according to ProFootballFocus.com

Snaps – 1058

Overall Comprehensive Safety Ranking – 57th (out of 83; -4.8 Rating)

Pass Rush – 59th (-0.4)

Coverage Rating – 35th (-0.2)

Run Support – 68th (-3.2)

Tackles – 6th (79)

Stops (Tackles Resulting in OFF Failure) – 46th (13)

Catch % (Percent of Opposing WR’s Catches in their Coverage) – 20th (56.1%)

Yards After Catch – 52nd (113 yards)

Touchdowns Given Up – Tied 36th (2)

Interceptions – Tied 13th (3)

Passes Defensed – Tied 21st (3)

NFL QB Rating (Opposing QB Rating in their Coverage) – 27th (72.4)

2009 (Strong Safety) according to ProFootballFocus.com

Snaps – 1051

Overall Comprehensive Safety Ranking – 43rd (out of 88; -2.0 Rating)

Pass Rush – 18th (+0.6)

Coverage Rating – 78th (-8.6)

Run Support – 4th (+6.0)

Sacks – 0; QB Hits – 1; QB Pressures – Tied 8th (5)

Tackles – 4th (88)

Stops (Tackles Resulting in OFF Failure) – 6th (31)

Catch % (Percent of Opposing WR’s Catches in their Coverage) – 70th (69.2%)

Yards After Catch – 58th (114 yards)

Touchdowns Given Up – 87th out of 88 (6)

Interceptions – Tied Last (0)

Passes Defensed – Tied 10th (5)

NFL QB Rating (Opposing QB Rating in their Coverage) – 82nd (137.6)

So Many Stats, Very Uneven

Often times its pretty easy to decipher how a player did overall, either really good, somewhere in the middle, or pretty bad. That’s not an easy task when looking at Erik Coleman’s statistics. Coleman is really good in some areas (Pass Rush, Run Support, Tackles, Passes Defensed), but is poor in other areas (Overall, Yards After Catch) and is downright atrocious in other areas (NFL QB Rating, TDs Given Up, Catch Percentage, and Coverage). Much of this debate is too hard to examine because there are so many variables including his position switch from free safety to strong safety, but some of the statistics are too hard to ignore such as Coleman being one of the best tackling safeties in the NFL, but also being one of the poorest safeties in terms of coverage. Some can be explained away with changing positions, but even when he played free safety he ranked right in the middle in terms of coverage. Coleman’s definitely a case study because he seems to be either really good at part of his game or very poor.

Great Run Support + Position Switch = Spot’s Safe

Yes Erik Coleman has some improving to do as he gets settled at strong safety a year after switching from free safety, but he is one of the surest tackling safeties in the entire NFL. Whether being a free safety or a strong safety, Coleman has finished top ten in tackles of all safeties in football. When he played FS in 2008, he tied for 13th with 3 interceptions, 21st in passes defensed, and almost top 25 in terms of keeping the QB with a low productivity when throwing into his area, the NFL QB Rating. He did struggle a touch when he made the position switch to strong safety to allow Thomas DeCoud to flourish at free safety with the slightest touch of unhappiness or resentment, a sign of a true leader and teammate. Even though he had issues of coverage on the switch to SS, he thrived in run support (a main requirement at strong safety) finishing 4th in overall run support, 4th in tackles, 6th in defensive stops, and tied for 10th in passes defensed.

Coleman will need to improve his pass defense this year to prove he’s justified in retaining the strong safety spot, but he deservedly should get this year to show that his issues in coverage were a product of switching positions after only playing free safety in his career. Throw in the fact that he’s one of the best leaders that helped to engineer the turnaround and William Moore can’t seem to stay healthy for a long period of time, and you get the feeling that the much ballyhooed competition won’t even be close.

Too Weak in Coverage, Will Be Replaced Soon

Coleman deservedly should get all the recognition and credit for helping to get the Falcons turned around in a very short period of time with his veteran leadership and locker room presence. But when it comes to his production on the field, #26 will likely be replaced sooner rather than later. Some of the issues he had probably were due to his position change, but placing so far down and being so weak in coverage is troubling at best. If anything, Coleman should be good at coverage coming over from the FS position. #26 is a very sure tackler, but to be considered a great or even good safety, you have to do both reasonably well. Switching to strong safety aside, Coleman finished 43rd among all safeties and was regularly topped by free safety Thomas DeCoud in areas that he should better at such as QB sacks. Most alarming of all was the fact that Coleman finished next to dead last in terms of touchdowns given up with a whopping 6. As well, the strong safety ranked 82nd out of 88 total safeties in terms of opposing NFL QB Rating with 137.6. This means that he was essentially 20 points short of having the opposing QB have a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.

Thomas Dimitroff must have known something when he selected William Moore with his second round pick last year. They had to already know that Thomas DeCoud was a favorite to take the free safety position and hoped Moore could compete for the SS spot. Some even thought that Moore may challenge Coleman last year. After an injury-riddled rookie season, Moore appears ready to mound a serious fight for the spot. With Moore missing mini-camp due to a freak weight room injury, he may not have enough time to claim the starting spot outright by the beginning of the season, but if he can replicate his play from his junior year at Missouri, then #25 will be the Falcons SS, not #26.

The Experts Turn

-What’s your thoughts on Erik Coleman in general?

-Was his lower production just a position switch or general decline?

-Is his poor coverage worth his excellent run support?

-Should he be given plenty of time to improve his coverage?

-Is Coleman’s starting spot safe?

-Can William Moore mount a legitimate challenge?

Happy Father’s Day to all past, present, and future Dad’s!

 

 

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92 comments Add your comment

John Waynesworld

June 20th, 2010
8:33 pm

Thanks D3 for the post.

Eric Coleman is a stand up guy who was put in an awful situation. He used every finger and toe to plug the leaks in our secondary and did a yoeman’s job of it. That being said, if injuries don’t bite William again, Coleman will be watching William Moore and Thomas DeCoud playing safety by the halfway mark of the season.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawson Devitt, Dawson Devitt. Dawson Devitt said: http://bit.ly/9vBY2F Is Erik Coleman's starting spot at strong safety secure? Come check out new Bird Cage/AJC post and join the discussion [...]

waynester

June 20th, 2010
8:54 pm

While I’m sure we all appreciate Coleman’s professionalism and the way he has handled the change of position, the fact remains that he just ain’t playing up to the level we need and should expect. He’s a great tackler, but his weakness in coverage more than makes up for any positives you can identify. It’s a crying shame that Moore keeps getting injured or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Perhaps it is age creeping up or the move to SS, either way this is a bottom-line profession and we need Moore or Schillinger to step up and seize the position going forward. Those 2 youngsters are the future and we need them on the field ASAP…..

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

Samuel

June 20th, 2010
9:29 pm

The bottom line does he make big plays? The answer is no there-for he becomes despensable. It’s a pass happy league and his weakness is covering the pass. As soon as somebody steps up he’ll be the odd man out.

ATLJBO

June 20th, 2010
10:19 pm

This is the same thing that happened in NY (jets) .. Erik Coleman played good as a FS but when he switched to the SS position his production/play drop some…

Why was there a drop off ?

I think Erik Coleman’s is best when he is asked o play deep center field (FS) .. All the action is in front of him… He is asked to read and jump routes as the deep playing safety (2008 as a FS) …

As a SS he is asked to play closer to the LOS (no cushing) … He is asked to play more man coverage or zone (in a tighter area) on TE’s or backs coming out the backfield.

Erik Colemans best position is FS but Decoud has that on lock.

I dont think Coleman was a bum at SS but i do think he is replaceable if we can find more of a play maker (William Moore ?)…

William Moore will have to win the job but i will say this… In college William Moore played deep early in his college career and also played that rover poistion (troy P type position)…. As the Rover.. He man covered the slot WR sometimes ,blitzed, or played his zone……. He should be able to fit into that SS position nicely if he wins the position.

This will be a good TC battle…. Erik Coleman is a solid Safety so William Moore will have to be on his top game to win the starting position.

Ed

June 20th, 2010
10:54 pm

Great breakdown D3. If Coleman is starting it will be a disappointment and a mark against Moore as he should be the starter. He was a second round pick with high excpectations because of his junior year at Missouri (as you mentioned) and has had plenty of film time. Now he needs to get on the field and show that he’s the man at SS. TD’s entire draft of ‘09 depends on how Jerry and Moore come back this year, not to mention the fate of the Falcons.

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

June 20th, 2010
10:54 pm

Sportaree

June 20th, 2010
11:21 pm

Good topic D3
Sam I don’t think Coleman will be out, but most likley BVG will use a rotation between Moore and Coleman depending on down and distance. We have not yet seen Moore on top of his game yet.

pt

June 20th, 2010
11:51 pm

Enter your comments here

FalconFanSinceFOREVER

June 21st, 2010
12:00 am

Erik Coleman will be replaced by season’s end IMO IF Moore can find a way to stay healthy. I really think the coaches want Moore on the field. Young players tend to play a lot faster and they tend to hit a lot harder which can lead to other things (fumbles, getting into an opponents’ head, etc) and that wins ballgames. On the other hand, Coleman is stout against the run. But safeties aren’t meant to make a play against the run are they? That’s why we have DL and LBs. I want a safety that’s in the mold of Darren Sharper, a safety that flies around and makes plays on the football. Go up and get it. Let the QB know that he can’t pass your way and that will completely shut down one side of the field. So if I had to place a vote, Coleman is on the bench, he isn’t a playmaker.

pt

June 21st, 2010
12:04 am

if moore can come in and earn that ss spot, it would go a long way toward upgrading overall team speed. moore was drafted to be a play maker as well as witherspoon. add in our dt we lost last year plus d.robinson. thats more speed than i have ever seen on my life long team. if what we have on paper could translate to sunday’s. we might be in for something.

lseay81

June 21st, 2010
12:09 am

I have no worries about Erik. He is solid and covered alot of gaps that needed to be filled. IF Peria can come back, IF Trey returns healthy, IF Weatherspoon is all that and IF our new Mr Dunte is all that, Erik will rise up even further. Let me say now that I believe in all those IFs. For the first time in my 47 years as a Falcon fan, I am a first time season ticket holder even if it is Dome/Mall football. I Believe!!

ATLJBO

June 21st, 2010
12:43 am

Sportaree

I can see us using a rotation also.

John Waynesworld

June 21st, 2010
7:36 am

I agree with ATLJBO, there will be alot of rotation at the safety position, especially at the beginning, if everybody stays healthy. If not then Erik’s our guy again and we can hope that the other defensive additions will give him help (which I believe to be correct).

No matter what we say here about Erik’s down season in 2009, he is still going to be invaluable with the in-game coaching he will give to Moore and Schillinger, preparing them for each opponent from week to week, and for next year and beyond.

On another note, we shouldn’t sleep on Schillinger. If Moore goes down again with injury, we may see Coleman coaching up that young man in a hurry instead. Shann is a very smart kid and had played safety for all 4 years at Montana AND stayed healthy:

“A four-year letterman and two-year starter, Schillinger never missed a game in his career, playing in 57 in a row, and starting in 31 straight as a junior and senior.”

The Real Falcon

June 21st, 2010
7:41 am

How about we say no one’s job is SAFE!?

HGN

June 21st, 2010
9:21 am

I am a Coleman fan……..He didn’t play any worse than the entire Falcon defense played. First, he played out of position at SS to free up the FS position for DeCoud. Which helped the overall defense. He will be in the rotation for both spots during the season.

eyesripdopen85

June 21st, 2010
9:41 am

William moore is a BEAST. put him on the field and let him hit someone. Coleman did ok for us but everyone knows that TD is all about younger and faster and thats not coleman. I think Moore will have the starting SS spot reg season game one

Deplane

June 21st, 2010
9:49 am

Coleman will step up this year…he has to, or if Moore is healthy he will take his job.

CBrass

June 21st, 2010
11:21 am

D3,

As always great job. Maybe, as history has shown, Coleman is not a SS. As it’s has been pointed out FS is his home. Being the humble,respectable, and team player that he is he didn’t think twice about making the move so that DeCoud could get on the field. I agree with what many here have said. I also think that Moore and Coleman will be used in a rotation or depending on who we are playing one may see the field more in that particular game than the other.

blord

June 21st, 2010
11:54 am

Good job D3! I just want to add that it is nice that we are having this conversation because for so long we all were yelling that our safetly play was not up to parr; however, now we are debating between 3 very capable guys. It is just nice to have such a debate. DeCould is a player to watch who has become “an answer” for our team on defense. Coleman is a solid player but not great and Moore has great potential but hasn’t been on the field yet. Whatever happens between Moore and Coleman I think we will have nice depth at a postion which seems to have a lot of injuries accross the NFL. It is a nice luxary.

Birdman

June 21st, 2010
12:08 pm

Great reads cage, Thanks D3.
Here is another one I picked up on our Birds today. ENJOY
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/408998-top-5-dark-horse-super-bowl-45-contenders#page/2

Moose

June 21st, 2010
12:11 pm

I agree CBrass…………..

I can see Moore on passing downs and Coleman used on runnig downs in rotation……………..

waynester

June 21st, 2010
12:31 pm

JW’sWorld Finally, someone else is looking at Schillinger, so it’s not just me who thinks the kid has a real shot at earning a job. It may be “ageist” of me but Coleman is getting up there for a pro safety and we need our young guys on the field. I’m all for giving E.C. another shot, but like many on here, I want to see a rotation with our young guys getting a lot of PT.

CBrass

June 21st, 2010
1:14 pm

Moose,

It all depends on Moore. He’s mentally got the play book down and now it’s just up to him to get out on the field on prove it.

CBrass

June 21st, 2010
1:18 pm

Birdman,

Great link. It’s too bad the writer thinks Chris Houston is still part of the team. :-(

Moose

June 21st, 2010
1:36 pm

The Cats are having their problems this year………

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith broke his arm during a flag football game at his football camp this weekend.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5311067

Birdman

June 21st, 2010
1:38 pm

Thanks Cbrass . I was looking forward to hearing the thoughts on that LO L. Makes one wonder about these so called experts in the sport. What do they really know ?

Birdman

June 21st, 2010
2:00 pm

To bad about Smith . Yet but another blow to the Panthers. This is not going to be a good year for them.
Thanks Moose !

CBrass

June 21st, 2010
2:02 pm

Moose,

I was just about to post that. With it just being a broken arm he will be ready for the start of the season. The down side is he will not be there to get that chemistry with those young QB’s.

yo mama

June 21st, 2010
2:19 pm

d3, do you ever check your stats before you write a blog. the falcons did not have a superb d in 2008, they actually had a worst d that year. they finished in 2008 ranked 24th, they were 21st in 2009. so, how does finishing 24th all of a sudden become superb. folks the problem was more the offense than we realize. the saints and colts won titles with almost the worst rated d in the league. the falcons need to keep feeding matt ryan with talent. right now we are light, if jenkins doesnt step it up statistically, we need to get another number 2 wr. harry douglas comes back healthy and contributes will help. ryans numbers were down because he was throwing to less than average talent(weems, booker, finn)

Infamous

June 21st, 2010
2:47 pm

I like Coleman. He is solid and consistent at the safety spot. However, what you see is as good as it is going to get. There is no upside at this point in his career. On the other hand, we have Moore. The guy TD and Smitty raved about drafting in the 2nd round, as if they just drafted TWO first rounders. With Moore, I see a great deal of upside and potential Reed-like abilities (albeit on a smaller scale). Moore is the guy that can take our defense to new heights for several years to come, but in order to do that he needs to be on the field. We just need to roll the dice and stick him out there starting in Pittsburgh. He has been digesting the system for a year already, so if he is 100% healthy at the end of preseason, then let him start. Coleman would be our most valuable back because he could step in for both FS and SS spots. Just like with Lofton, Jerry, and Spoon *fingers crossed*, open up the cage in game one and let this bird fly. By the end of the season, he will ready to go for the playoffs. Yeah I said it. PLAYOFFS!! And NFC South Champs at that!

tjhook

June 21st, 2010
2:52 pm

I got love for Eric Coleman’s game – He plays every down with a “I have to make this play for my team!” mentality. I thank him for joining the Falcons. And I hope he gets extensive time in the secondary because he will make plays – during the season and potentially if we make the post-season.

F-105 Thunderchief

June 21st, 2010
3:52 pm

Erik Coleman will hold on to his spot. Last season was a growing experience. He’ll turn it up a couple of notches this season.

NOTSO FAST

June 21st, 2010
4:06 pm

I like the idea that everybody job will be looked at andt the best man will play. Eric Coleman has played his best and it should be his job until someone comes along and does it better.

Kushion

June 21st, 2010
4:31 pm

Moore was drafted to start. Training camp will tell the story. May the best man win. Gotta love the depth this team is building. I see Schillinger going to practice squad and Giordano getting the nod but again training camp will tell the story. DT is gonna be a battle. They will probably keep four like last year especially with JA98 playing more DT this season. We know who the first three are. Vance Walker, Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis will all battle for one spot.

Kushion

June 21st, 2010
4:37 pm

Moore has added pressure as I’m sure he will not want his former college teammate now rookie OLB to start before he does.

CBrass

June 21st, 2010
4:45 pm

D3,

This post is the lead story on the Falcons page. Nice work buddy!!!!

Birdman

June 21st, 2010
4:48 pm

The knife and spoon !

Sarah B

June 21st, 2010
5:05 pm

Erik Colemen will play this year. And can it get any hotter???

SeminoleWarrior

June 21st, 2010
6:49 pm

What’s up Cage Family..

Another stellar piece D3. And I agree with CBrass, headliner on the sports page…The Cage continues to reach new heights.

Erik Coleman..a definate asset to this team. His steady leadership, communication skills, and tenacious play served as a model of consistency on a team that really began to come into its own as the season went on. As most of the Cage knows, stats are not something I really look hard at. As I sat in the Dome for ten games as well as two road games in Kitty Kity and the Bayside, I saw his invaluable leadership on display. Like Peterson, he made some mistakes and came up short in some situations. But the leadership they provide the young lions like Lofton, Nicholas, Owens, Grimes, and DeCoud served a much greater purpose than anything any stat could reveal.

We knew that the defense would be in a major state of transition. Like an fighting force, we had to hone our skills for battle in a series of simulated exercises. The preseason and the first quarter of the season provided that. As the “troops” began to trust the commadnder (BVG), the platoon leaders (Pete, Coleman) had to ensure that the squad understood the battle cry. Engage in the fight, grow as a team, seeking to get better with each chance. They did and by season’s end, we began to see the future with a ton of hope and well wishes.

Erik Coleman makes the squad. He is not the best SS in the game. He is a good solid football player who brings it each chance he gets. He is a leader; a quiet warrior that goes out and executes the plan for the battle at hand. He leads without fanfare or attention. He works hard at his craft and takes it personally when he lets down his team.

Whether he is the starter or not, Erik is a keeper on this roster. William Moore, Thomas DeCoud and others can do no worse than to model themselves after this gentle warrior. Patton said it best and it applies to Coleman.

Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.

This team, this defense, is young and still learning. Stand back. The world is about to see us drop the hammer on the NFC. I am proud, damned proud, that Erik Coleman is one of those that has given me hope that our day is coming; our day on Peachtree is coming.

Do what you do best Erik…lead my brother. Make the plays when they matter and help the young warriors grow. I, for one, am glad to have you on my team.

SeminoleWarrior

June 21st, 2010
6:55 pm

Yes, dear Sarah, it CAN get hotter.

Moose

June 21st, 2010
7:21 pm

Dead on SW………

We know who the first three are. Vance Walker, Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis will all battle for one spot.
===============================================================

Outta those three I would have to take Vance Walker as the pick…….. The guys tough and durable with alot of up-side…………

SeminoleWarrior

June 21st, 2010
7:25 pm

Thanks Moose. That DT battle would be an intense one. Walker has upside for sure; Jphnson is a solid reserve. I’m really pulling for Trey Lewis. I had the chance to talk with the gentle giant at the mini camp. He seems so humble but determined to get back in there and make plays. I wish him the best.

JJ

June 21st, 2010
7:37 pm

Sarah, wait until august, this is just begining. I have my crew starting at 7am-3pm, but we prob. will go to 630am-230am next month. It’s definately called Hot’lanta for a reason but not as bad as coop in texas!

jason

June 21st, 2010
7:52 pm

SW, loved the 6:49 post. Quite true on that comparison. What people need to understand is that while ATL has alot of you talent with enormous potential, it is the PSgts like Peterson, Coleman, and Abe that lead and educate the rookies on the rigors of playing in the NFL; on being a professional. You could very well see a 3 man rotation at SS and FS among Cole, DeCoud, and Moore. Moore I believ played both at Mizzou. Definitely keep both S positions fresh. Look for Moore to excell on STs early as he proves himself healthy and ready to take the SS baton from Coleman.

jason

June 21st, 2010
7:55 pm

As far as the DT position goes, too bad we can only take 4 since JA will provide depth at both DT and DE. Lewis and Walker would be my picks. While Jefferson was a good reserve, that’s what he will always be. Lewis (if healthy) and Walker both have starter’s potential. I think alot will depend on how long Bab’s suspenion will be. If it’s long maybe ATL will carry 5 for a short period of time.

Chop Buster

June 21st, 2010
8:04 pm

-What’s your thoughts on Erik Coleman in general? He’s a solid strong safety that has good fundamentals. Does he blow up anyone out of the backfield? No. Will he pick off a pass to the TE? No. Did he look lost at time last year? Yes. I imagine he was trying to get use to playing SS and the defensive play book.

-Was his lower production just a position switch or general decline? Could be a position switch as I said earlier. This year should give the true picture of Coleman.

-Is his poor coverage worth his excellent run support? No. This is a passing league and Coleman looks very slow to me. I said the same thing…coverage should be his strong suit especially since he was a FS.

-Should he be given plenty of time to improve his coverage? Depends on if we have someone better who can cover, tackle in the back field, or blow up some players. When I think of SS I think of Dawkins who can bring the wood…that’s not Coleman. The Jets obviously saw something that made him expendable.

-Is Coleman’s starting spot safe? No…and I hope not. Smitty knows he’s not a complete SS. We do not need anymore weak spots on this defense.

-Can William Moore mount a legitimate challenge? Don’t know. First the guy has to show he can remain healthy. Second he has to show that he can play safety in the NFL at the level he did in his Jr year of college. He has the size, the speed, and the instincts to be real good if he fulfills his potential on the field.

Chop Buster

June 21st, 2010
8:26 pm

Correction…Dawkins is a FS, but hits like a SS. That’s what this team needs another safety like Decoud who can bring the wood. This defense needs an identity and it should be based on speed and laying the opponent out. BVG says he wants an aggressive defense, then teach your team to knock the opponent out.

Sarah B

June 21st, 2010
9:18 pm

GoddMN “Remember the Titans” It’s makin me cry….