The Redskin scouting combine listed him as weighing less than 200 pounds. "Too small for a linebacker," said the report.
But Monte Coleman really weighed 210 pounds when Redskin scout Dick Daniels first saw him last year at Central Arkansas. Daniels also saw that Coleman was one of those diamond-in-the-rough athletes that pro scouts everywhere love to discover as they sweep the country's remote football talent lodes.
"You could see it on film, he was gifted with natural ability," said General Manager Bobby Beathard, who got as excited as Daniels as he watched Coleman perform.
"Even after the draft, they were still considering him too small to play. By the time we took him in the draft, he was 6-2 and 215 pounds. When he showed up at Redskin Park he was up to 220. That isn't small."
Beathard was so confident the club had scored a scouting coup that he waited until the 11th round to select Coleman. But this is no average 11th-round pick, not when he can 40 yards in 4.7 seconds, smash tacklers with a vengeance and, in his spare time, bench press 350 pounds.
Coleman showed so well in a spring minicamp that Coach Jack Pardee came away convinced "he had ability to be a superlinebacker in this league. He needs experience and training, but the physical gifts, the ones linebackers need, he has in abundance. He could be something."
For a player who spent three years as a standout small college safety and never has played at outside linebacker, Coleman has been especially impressive the first few days of training camp. He is strong, aggressive, a good learner and quick. That is a combination that should have made any scouting combine computer sing.
"Sometimes when a guy just doesn't fit the right mold, the combine spits him out," said Beathard. "We look for athletes, people with body control and strength and quickness and intensity. The fact he was a safety for so long and thought to be small worked against him."
Coleman is just one of a handful of young linebackers in this camp who have delighted Pardee, the former premier linebacker. And they also have helped Beathard's spirit, since their success could make last year's limited draft better than anyone could have hoped. $&(WORD ILLEGIBLE
Penn State's Rich Milot, a seventh-round pick, also was downplayed by the combine. Part of his problem, said Beathard, was that "he played too many positions in college. No one knew what he was best-suited for in the pros.
"The first time I saw him, I couldn't stop watching him but I just had to hope no one saw my interest in him. He just looked like a linebacker to me. He had big looks (6-4, 220) and could run and he was smart and he was from a great system.
"It got to a point where we knew exactly who we wanted in the draft. It wasn't a matter of guesswork. We had scouted the situation and we had a pretty good idea of who was going to be left for us to take."
Toss in such free agents as Maryland's Neal Olkewicz, who set a school tackling record but wasn't even on the combine's list because of his size (6-0, 218), and Tim Petersen, a 6-3, 230-pounder who had a tryout last year with New England, and the Redskins hope they can produce at least a couple of legitimate pro players from this camp.
Coleman, a quiet, unassuming person from a family of eight brothers and sisters, is something special. He never played football in high school, then walked onto the team at Central Arkansas (enrollment: 4,000), where his brother was a quarterback. By the end of his freshmen season, he was an all-conference safety.
He had played baseball in high school, but never very well. And he didn't have much desire to try anything else.
"But I got interested in football and since my brother was at Central Arkansas and the coach knew me, I figured if I was going to try it, that was the place to go. I'd come in on my brother's name and then take it from there.
"They tried me as a split end, but when I intercepted three passes in a JV game, that made me a safety."
He made the all-league squad the next two seasons, while getting bigger and bigger, thanks to natural growth and weightlifting. By the time he walked into fall practice his senior year, he was up to 210. His coach was stunned.
"When one of his linebackers didn't show up," said Coleman, "he put me there. I made all-conference again. As a safety. I couldn't believe it. The coaches voted and I had been a linebacker all season but there I was at safety again."
No wonder the scouting combine was confused. Coleman, who has not thought he was big enough in high school to play a contact sport, had a few pro scouting nibbles, just enough to heighten his interest, but he calls what is happening now "a dream come true."
"You think you can play pro ball," he said, "but coming from Central Arkansas and all, I never thought it would happen.
"I knew the Redskins were interested in me, but when they told me they had drafted me (to make sure Pittsburgh didn't take him), I got really excited. I haven't stopped working since."
Coleman, already a mass of muscles, is still growing. He wants to get up to at least 225 but, the way he has added weight lately, that could be a conservative figure.
"He just works and works," said Beathard.
"He's willing to learn. He listens. That's the kind of beginning you need with a youngster like him."
Coleman is trying to absorb a detailed defense that is tossed at him in large chunks through never-ending meetings and practices. It is a headfull that at first overwhelmed him.
"It knocked me," he said. "It all comes at you so fast. But now it is starting to make sense. One thing, they treat everyone the same. They give us all a fair shot, even if you are an 11th-round draft choice.
"That's what counts. The rest is up to you. If I don't make it, it wont't be because they didn't look at me."
Coleman is the first Central Arkansas player to have been drafted.
"We are kind of glad he went to that school," said Beathard. "Otherwise, we may never have had a chance to draft him."
The camp's first fisticuffs: runner Louis Carter against linebacker Willie Blasher. It lasted just long enough to have both tumble to the ground.... Another walkout: rookie guard Charley Bloxsom of Miami (Fla.).... Veteran defensive tackle Diron Talbert, coming off knee surgery, reported for the afternoon workout. CAPTION: Picture 1, Don Droege of Diplomats, far left, goes higher than Whitecap defender Bob Lenarduzzi to head a shot past Vancouver goalie Phil Parkes (right) for first Diplomat goal in 2-1 victory; Picture 2, The shot came off an indirect kick by Joe Horvath after a foul. Photos by Richard Darcey - The Washington Post; Picture 3, Redskin rookie linebacker Monte Coleman, right, squares up against rookie tight end Phil DuBois in training session. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post