EAGAN, Minn. – Kevin Bowman looked forward to receiving an autograph from Greg Coleman.
He left the Vikings Legend's book signing with much more, however.
A lifelong Vikings fan, Bowman calls himself an "autograph geek" and often makes the drive from Waconia, Minnesota, to meet current or former players and add their ink to his extensive collection.
So when he heard Coleman was hosting a signing to promote his new book, Punt: Flip the Field, Bowman and his 10-year-old son Jonah headed to the Minnesota Vikings Museum.
Bowman admitted he hadn't realized a program would precede the autograph line, so he and Jonah grabbed a seat to take in the Q&A with Coleman and Vikings Entertainment Network's Gabe Henderson.
"I'm so glad we sat and listened," Bowman said. "I'd known Mr. Coleman was a spiritual man by listening to when he used to do the game-day broadcasts.
"He was very inspirational. Very motivating. You can tell he's driven by his faith, and I could tell he loved his family," Bowman added. "I could tell that he took his mental health seriously. He just seemed like a genuinely nice guy."
Coleman addressed a growing crowd with his usual warmth and charisma, explaining his decision to retire from his broadcast role and weekly "Pregame Preaches." He noted spending more family time with his beloved wife Eleanor and the couple's children and grandchildren.
"When we stepped away from the broadcast, it was not because of any particular issue. It was because the Good Lord has given us a great journey, over the first part of our lives," Coleman told the attendees. "But this back nine, or this fourth quarter, I wanted it to be what we chose it to be. And not on anyone's timetable, anybody's schedule, because they have sacrificed many, many years.
"In the end, all we have are just that – we have significant moments that will highlight our lives and significant memories that will carry us for a lifetime," Coleman added. "And by pinning some of those stories, pinning some of those obstacles we had to overcome – it could be some life lessons, sharing some principles, rituals, that have served me well – and we just wanted to share it with the world."
Asked whom he wrote the book for, Coleman emphasized the widespread audience he intended.
"It's for my kids, it's for your kids, it's for anyone who's had to overcome obstacles," he said. "It could be a for a student, it could be for a professional, a housewife, an athlete. Everyone can glean something from this book. And I hope some of the lessons that we've learned, some of these obstacles I've had to overcome in my life, that you don't have to travel down that same road.
"I liken it to, I just drove down this road [called life], and there was a huge pothole. … And I know you're coming back down this same road, so I can text you, send you a message, call you – or write it in a book – and say, 'If you're going down this road, there's a huge pothole to avoid,' " Coleman continued.
Coleman, who played for the Vikings from 1978-87, made NFL history as the league's first African American punter. He spoke about a portion of his book highlighting that milestone, though he noted the book covers a much broader breadth of material.
He referenced former Twins great Kirby Puckett, who prior to Game 6 of the 1991 World Series told his teammates, "Hey, jump on my back, baby. Let's go."
"If that's what it takes, then let's go," Coleman said with a smile. "We've gotta open that door wider. We've gotta kick it in. Because so many kids, grandkids, great grandkids – if they say, 'Hey, if Big Poppa can do it, I can do it, too.' "
One of the book's main themes is focus – whether on the football field, the baseball diamond, the home, the workplace or in one's faith.
Coleman used his experience as an NFL punter to illustrate the importance of mindset.
"Focus was everything to me. I was a player who enjoyed the game, I was entertained by the game, but when it came to third down, I had to re-shift my focus to do what I was supposed to do. My job as a punter was to flip the field. That meant getting our team out of harm's way. Putting the other team at bay," he explained. "I had to stop enjoying the game. I had to block out everything that was surrounding … and I had to go back and focus on my routine. It was a short step left, short right, extend arm, shoulders forward and explode through the ball. That's all I thought about.
"Just an inch or two off can make all the difference in the world, whether it's a 65-yard punt or a 35-yard punt. They both come off the same leg. The only difference is what's happening up here," Coleman added, tapping his temple with his pointer finger. "What's happening with your focus."
Longtime Vikings fan Les Sjodin also attended the event, making the drive from St. Cloud, and appreciated Coleman's message on focus and how he also tied in his experience in track-and-field as a hurdler.
"Once you get over one hurdle, you run in between like crazy," Coleman said. "Then you've gotta get ready and refocus again, because there are 10 more obstacles ahead of you. … We all have obstacles in our lives. We all have hurdles."
"I'm so excited to start reading the book," said Sjodin. "I attended because I like pretty much anything Vikings-related, [but also] because Greg seemed like such a good guy and is super positive. I believe we need more of that in this world."
Bowman couldn't agree more.
He happily purchased a copy of Coleman's book following the discussion and waited in line with Jonah to have the Vikings Legend autograph it. Upon getting up to the table, Bowman felt drawn to share a snippet of his sobriety journey with Coleman.
"I told him that I was in a 12-step program, and that I'm three years sober," Bowman said. "After he signed my copy and we took a photo together, he gave me a big hug and told me, 'Keep at it, Brother.'
"Out of all the Vikings, current and Legends, I've had the honor and privilege to meet, I have not had a hug from any one of them. That meant a lot to me," Bowman continued. "It really was not just another autograph event or appearance. It was something much more. I left the event feeling really good. I just felt uplifted."
Visit Coleman’s website to learn more about his latest book, purchase a copy or sign up to be notified when additional copies are available.