by Andrew Freeman, Staff Writer

University of West Florida wide receiver Rodney Coates has rejoined the football team after taking a season off.

Coates, a senior from Clarke County High School in Grove Hill, Alabama, is making his way back to the field after sitting out a season for personal reasons.

He started playing football at the age of 9 back in his hometown. Since then he has fallen in love with the game of football.

The receiver has a career total of 249 receiving yards and four touchdowns, and had five receptions of 20 yards or more in 2017.

He is known in part for his one-handed grab that made ESPN’s top play on the SportsCenter Top 10.

“It was great to be the top play. I watch that segment all time on TV, and to see a small-town guy like myself up there was really a major accomplishment,” Coates said. “I’m just glad that I could make a play for my brothers.”

Coates was a part of UWF’s first official signing class in 2015.

“I decided with UWF early on in the process. Coming from a town with very little exposure, I was just happy to get the opportunity to play again,” Coates said. “UWF was very consistent and welcoming throughout the recruiting process, so it was only right that I came here.”

Being a part of the first signing class was a special moment in Coates’ life. He is glad that he made the decision, despite knowing that he wouldn’t be playing in his first season at UWF.

“The first group of guys really had to endure a lot to make it through that first year of not having a season, but through that we established a great foundation and culture for the guys after us to follow and uphold,” Coates said. “We will always and forever be the pioneers of the great UWF football team.”

With Grove Hill being only a two-hour drive from UWF, Coates is glad that he was able to stay close to home.

“It’s amazing, still being able to look in the stands and see my family and friends,” Coates said. “Being able to share this experience with them is a dream come true.”

Coates says his ability to make plays and give the crowd something to cheer for wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for his mom, who has been with him every step of the way.  

“She constantly keeps me encouraged and uplifted about my journey here at UWF,” Coates said.

Coates doesn’t need much to motivate him now, as he is doing everything for his son, Chayce, and his girlfriend, Jasmine Palmer.

“Chayce reminds me every day of why I have to continue to be the positive example that he needs in his life,” Coates said. “Jasmine is amazing. She does everything behind the scenes to make sure I’m prepared and mentally locked in. She’s definitely a keeper.”

Teammate Trent Archie expects nothing but greatness from Coates in the 2019 season.

“Rodney has amazing speed and athleticism, and there will be very few people who can keep up with his aggressive playing style,” Archie said. “He is without a doubt going to be one of the top receivers in the Gulf South Conference this year.”

Coates believes that if you want to be a special person both on and off the field, then UWF is the place to be.

“Here we are coached to win, not just on the field, but in life, becoming a better person, son, husband and man,” Coates said. “I’ve gained lifelong friends here and consider them to be family.”