A majority of college athletes will never play their sport professionally, and only a handful will be so dominant that they must decide whether to finish college before signing a professional contract.
When Our Lady of Mercy graduate Christian Coleman won the NCAA Championships this spring in the 60 meters, 100 meters, and 200 meters, the track and field star needed to choose whether to spend one more year at Tennessee or sign a professional contract with Nike.
The 21-year-old junior from Atlanta chose to begin his professional career on June 16, a result of a season in which his speed was showcased multiple times on SportsCenter highlight reels. But he also plans to finish his sports management degree at Tennessee this year.
Coleman set NCAA records this spring with a 9.82-second 100 meters and 19.85 seconds in the 200 meters. He was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Indoor and Outdoor Runner of the Year, and he’s a finalist for The Bowerman, the award given to the top male and female collegiate track & field athlete.
Going in to the NCAA National Championship, Coleman said in an interview with the Fayette County News that he expected to win as much as he did because of all the work he’d put in to that point.
“It was a great accomplishment,” Coleman said.
After the season, Coleman said he was contacted by agents, and confided in parents and coaches to help him make his decision. He also built a strong relationship with fellow Tennessee Volunteer and competitor, Justin Gatlin. Coleman hasn’t beaten his 35-year-old mentor yet, but he’s looking forward to having another opportunity to top the Olympic gold medalist.
Despite the busy transition from college to professional competition, Coleman said he’s not looking too far ahead.
“I’ve got to follow the same process I did to get to this point,” Coleman said. “I had to work hard to get here and I have to work hard to stay at this level.”
Coleman will be running in the world championships in London beginning on Aug. 4.