Darrius Coleman standing up and stepping in for Southern

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern running back Darrius Coleman, (30) looks for a running lane during the Jags season opener on Friday in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern running back Darrius Coleman, (30) looks for a running lane during the Jags season opener on Friday in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Darrius Coleman is team-oriented. Selfless. Without a personal agenda. He wants the best for others, not just himself.

To that end, here was Coleman, a senior running back, with his final opportunity to play college football, on the sideline Friday night at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Again, just where he was during so many games last season.

Nevertheless, Coleman hoped his teammate Kylum Favorite would keep an early drive against FBS opponent Houston going. But after the freshman had a devastating fumble early in the first quarter, Coleman got the call to take over.

“Me and Ky were working on high and tight (ball protection drills) as our main thing this summer, so when it happened I was kind of disappointed — but then again just excited to get in the game and play football,” Coleman said.

In a 62-13 loss, Southern had a number of crushing issues, but Coleman remained a positive light throughout the season opener. He finished with 91 yards on 22 carries and 26 yards on four catches, a performance running backs coach Elvis Joseph was proud of.

“Coleman came in and did a great job,” coach Joseph said. “He was ready to play, and we kept him in there. He ran the ball well. He protected the quarterback. He did everything that was asked of him.”

While running the ball seemed natural to him Friday, it’s something he was distant from for quite some time. When he transferred from Idaho State in 2011, Coleman was at nickelback and safety and didn’t switch to offense until last year.

“Now he understands the ins and outs,” coach Joseph said. “Protection, ball security, catching the ball … he understands all of the aspects of the running back position. He played running back in high school so it was just getting him acclimated to playing the off side again, and right now he’s comfortable with where he’s at.”

And the change is one Coleman has been thrilled about.

“I love offense,” Coleman said. “I’ve never really liked defense. That’s just not my thing.”

Coleman’s transition has also caught the eye of quarterback Dray Joseph, who was also a plus factor in the Houston game.

“He’s a real patient guy,” Joseph said. “He understands what the offense is designed to do, understands what each run is designed for, and I think that’s why he’s so successful when gets on the field.”

But this isn’t Coleman’s first time facing a tough opponent. He also impressed at last season’s opener at New Mexico, which Joseph recalled distinctly.

“I know what he’s capable of,” Joseph said. “He started the New Mexico game for us last year, and he actually ran the ball pretty well. I think he finished with 94 yards, so it was a great game for him.”

One quality those around Coleman seem to constantly note is his work ethic.

“Darrius always does something 110 percent,” his mother, Donna Coleman, said. “He’s always had that work ethic in him. He works hard for what he wants to achieve, and he sticks to it.”

Though Darrius has seen quality time on the field, it didn’t come without a price.

After transferring from Idaho State, Darrius made his way to Southern.

With his father from Opelousas, the Seattle native was already familiar with the Jaguars, and his mother’s wish for him to attend an HBCU along with the university’s architecture program made SU the perfect pick.

But as a transfer, Darrius would have to sit out for an entire season.

“Transitioning from Idaho to Southern was a very hard thing for him,” Donna said. “He couldn’t play for a year, and that wasn’t easy for him.”

Missing a full season could have daunting effects, but Coleman persevered. His work ethic and abilities are not hard to miss, and his actions speak volumes.

“He’s one that leads by example,” coach Joseph said. “He’s not one to yell or scream, talk too much. He does what he’s supposed to do, and he’s a great kid in the classroom. A lot of guys respect him for what he’s doing.”

Coleman has established a pattern of delivering when it counts the most.

“He’s a hard-working kid,” coach Joseph said. “He gets out here and he works, stays after when he needs to. He comes in and watches film and does what he has to do to get better, and you can see it. And we expect him to keep on improving as the season progresses.”