EAGAN, Minn. — Back when he was a senior in high school, Greg Coleman penned some lofty expectations for himself.
"You know in your high school yearbook when you put your name, your hobbies and your ambitions … I wrote years and years ago that I wanted to be a punter in the National Football League," Coleman said. "My teammates and classmates laughed and said, 'Man, you're out of your mind. There's no Black punters in the NFL.' And I said, 'That ain't my problem.' "
Coleman accomplished that dream during a 12-year professional career, spending 10 of those seasons in Purple with the Vikings.
But Coleman also recently added another highlight to his résumé, as he was announced as a member of the 2021 Class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
For Coleman, who proudly watched as friends and Vikings connections received the news they were entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the moment was one to savor.
"I'm going to try and hold it together here," Coleman said. "I'm reminded of what David Baker does when he knocks on the door for the men in the Pro Football Hall of Fame … when Randy Moss went in, John Randle went in, Randall McDaniel, Cris Carter … a few great Vikings.
"When they get that knock on the door, how emotional it is. When they called me, it was emotional," Coleman added. "A range of emotions from left to right thinking back to the struggles of African-American men."
Coleman lived through multiple types of discrimination during his youth in Jacksonville, Florida. His all-Black PeeWee football team won the city championship its division, earning the right to play in the Gator Bowl, but the young men were denied the opportunity.
He bounced back from that pain and starred as a punter at Florida A&M University from 1972-75, before becoming the first Black punter ever selected in an NFL Draft (Cincinnati tabbed him in the 14th round in 1976).
Coleman said the skill he became known for — pinning opponents deep on their territory with precision kicks — was developed in college.
He relayed a story that his former special teams coach, Costa "Pop" Kittles, suggested to "kick 'em where they ain't."
"That's when I started crafting the skill of kicking it to the corners," said Coleman, who was enshrined in the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. "I'll never forget one of my first Monday Night Football games when Howard Cosell coined me, 'Coffin Corner Coleman.' That's all I did … kicked them to the corner."
Although he was drafted by Cincinnati, Coleman didn't play a down for the Bengals. Also a track star in the hurdles with strong speed, coaches kept suggesting he try positions other than punter.
But Coleman was insistent. He punted in 14 games for Cleveland in 1977 but was released after the preseason in 1978.
He had a few tryouts and was looking to latch on with a team when he turned on a Vikings-Rams game on Oct. 15, 1978. A man of faith, Coleman prayed that he'd eventually play for the Vikings.
Minnesota called the next day, and Coleman punted in 138 regular-season games in Purple.
"Never give up and don't lose hope," Coleman said. "No matter how many doors get closed in your face … I believe that when a door is closed, God will open a window."
Coleman and the rest of the Class of 2021 will be honored at the Black College Football Hall of Fame induction in June of 2021. The induction ceremony will take place at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.