By Peter Schwartz
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When you think of the Jets’ 2004 draft, the most notable thing that comes to mind was first round pick linebacker Jonathan Vilma. In fact, during training camp that summer, strength and conditioning coach John Lott gathered all the rookies together and gave them a stern warning.

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“He explained to us that all of us can be gone except for Vilma,” recalled fifth-round pick Erik Coleman. “He said everybody here can be replaced except for Vilma. I just remember that fear if I was going to make the team.”

Erik Coleman (credit: New York Jets)

Erik Coleman (credit: New York Jets)

Well as it turns out, No. 26 drew plenty of attention as Coleman spent that summer turning heads at Hofstra. It seemed like the Washington State product was making a play every day. When camp ended, he had not only made the team, but he was named a starter.

“It was an amazing experience,” said the former safety, who notched interceptions in his first two NFL games. “Those first memories showing that I can make it in this league and make plays was something that I’ll never forget.”

Coleman played four seasons for the Jets from 2004 to 2007 before moving on to the Falcons for three years and then the Lions in 2011 and 2012. After a nine-year NFL career, Coleman retired from football. He finished with 653 tackles, 11 interceptions and 35 passes defensed.

Not bad for a fifth-round pick!

After a year away from the game, Coleman is involved in football once again as a Jets analyst for SNY.

“It feels right,” said Coleman. “When I was done playing, I had a couple of opportunities to go into broadcasting but my heart just wasn’t in it.”

But a year later, Chris Farina, SNY’s senior producer of Jets programming, approached Coleman on Twitter to see if he wanted to come down to the studio and do a preseason show.

This time, Coleman said yes — and he had a blast.

“I just loved it,” said Coleman. “I love talking about the Jets and the passion that their fans have.”

Many NFL players turn to broadcasting after their careers are over, but for many of them, that’s a difficult transition to make. After being side-by-side with your teammates and all those battles with opponents over the years, it can be a little uneasy to start ripping players on television.

It sounds like Coleman has found a good approach.

“I think the tough part is to have to criticize players,” said Coleman, who has appeared on “Jets Game Plan” and “Jets Post Game Live.” “I try not to be too hard on the guys because I know what they go through to prepare for each game. I’m starting to get used to it. I’m starting to have fun with it.”

Now that he’s getting his feet wet with broadcasting, Coleman has some long-term goals. He wants to continue getting reps and doing more shows so he can improve his on-air skills.

At some point, he’d like to make a transition to the broadcast booth.

“I would love to,” said Coleman. “I’m trying to improve every week and try to get better at what I do. I want to be great at this and I would love to be an analyst and do more shows. I would love to do as much as I can.”

Coleman certainly did a lot during his time with the Jets as Gang Green made it to the playoffs twice in four years. In 2004, Coleman reached the postseason as a rookie and experienced the high of a playoff win over the Chargers but then a crushing low with the divisional-round overtime loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

That was a game the Jets should have won, but kicker Doug Brien missed two potential game-winning field goals in the fourth quarter.

“I remember during that game thinking that we were going to go to the Super Bowl,” Coleman said. “After the game, I was very disappointed and I think I was even crying. I remember saying, ‘Its OK, we’ll be back next year,’ not knowing how hard it is to get back to that position.”

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Coleman and the Jets missed the playoffs in 2005.

Erik Coleman (credit: New York Jets)

Erik Coleman (credit: New York Jets)

In 2006, the Jets returned to the playoffs only to lose to the Patriots in the wild-card round. Gang Green missed the playoffs again in 2007, and Coleman would leave as a free agent to sign with the Falcons.

While the broadcasting opportunity has him excited, Coleman is back in town because of his day job as a partner with Core Medical New York, a company dedicated to revolutionizing the anti-aging process.

“It’s been great,” Coleman said. “Just helping people live better lives is a great feeling. I’m just passing along the health knowledge that I have to other people is a natural fit for me.”

What’s also a fit is Coleman talking Jets football. After a season-opening win over the Raiders, the Jets have dropped three in a row as they head into this Sunday’s game in San Diego.

Despite the 1-3 start, Coleman feels that the Jets can pull themselves out of this malaise.

“It’s frustrating because they have so much talent and so much potential,” Coleman said. “They’re a few mistakes away from being a 3-1 team and I really do think that they have the talent to win. They just need to believe it.”

Especially quarterback Geno Smith, who has been under fire for being a turnover machine through the first four games. In fact, Jets Nation made its feelings known loud and clear at MetLife Stadium this past Sunday with chants of “We want Vick!”

So what do the Jets do?

Do they stick with Geno or turn to Vick?

“Anytime you have a good backup quarterback and the starter struggles a little bit, everyone’s going to want to see something new,” said Coleman. “In my personal opinion, I don’t think it would hurt (Geno) to sit back and watch a veteran play a little bit. Sometimes it helps to learn from the sidelines.”

Coleman learned a lot about being a New Yorker during his four years with the Jets. Now, although his player career is over, his football life has come full circle with a return to New York.

Erik Coleman (credit: New York Jets)

Erik Coleman (credit: New York Jets)

On his Twitter page, Erik Coleman refers to himself as a “Proud Spokane Native,” but now resides on Long Island.

“It always felt like home to me,” said Coleman. “My best memories of playing football in the NFL were in New York. When anyone asks me who I played for in the NFL, I always say the Jets. That’s the team that the team that I grew up with. I became a man playing for the Jets and I’m definitely always a Jet.”

Author Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Bon Jovi countered that by singing, “Who Say You Can’t Go Home?”

New York is not Spokane, but Erik Coleman is back in familiar surroundings. He’s enjoying life with a fabulous full-time career as well as a wonderful new opportunity in broadcasting at SNY.

Welcome home, Erik!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow Erik Coleman: @erikcoleman.

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