(STATESMAN STOCK PHOTO)
Adrian Coxson (above, No. 1) is looking to achieve his NFL aspirations with the help of Super Bowl champ Qadry Ismail.  STATESMAN STOCK PHOTO

“This chance is not just for me.”

That chance, for Adrian Coxson, is a shot at living out his dream.

Coxson, a wide receiver who played his final football season at Stony Brook in the fall, has been through it all since he committed to Penn State in April of 2009.

In a way, six years before the biggest day of his life on April 1, Coxson started a journey that no four-star high school football recruit wants to go on.

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The Baltimore, Md. native took off his Nittany Lion cap and replaced it with a Florida Gator one before he ever got to college. He was headed to Gainesville, where current star NFL wide receivers Percy Harvin and Riley Cooper had recently graduated.

Florida was the place to be. They had Urban Meyer, notorious for getting the best out of his players, in a program that had just graduated arguably one of the best college football players in recent memory, Tim Tebow. For those who dream of playing professional football, Gainesville is like paradise.

But, everything changed before Coxson could get through the entirety of his first training camp at Florida.

Living nearly 1,000 miles away from his home in Maryland, the distance was just too far.

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For the City College alumnus, everything is about family. So when his father got sick, the only son of the Coxson bunch put his priority first. He transferred to the University of Maryland, then under the leadership of Head Coach Ralph Friedgen, to be close to home.

Everything could have gone smoothly from there, but it did not. When Friedgen left, so did Coxson’s playing time. Under a new regime, he only totaled four catches for 90 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman in the rare moments during which he escaped the sideline.

Again, his journey’s wheel spun around and around. This time, the pointer landed out on Long Island, under Head Coach Chuck Priore at Stony Brook. It was the fourth stop on Coxson’s college journey and would be his last. A top-20 receiver in the entire country at the time of his high school graduation, the 6-foot-1-inch playmaker ended up at the home of a running-oriented offense at the FCS level, the second tier of Division I Football.

There is no way of getting around it. Stony Brook is not Penn State, Florida, or Maryland. That is something that Coxson had thought about over the years.

“I’ve learned to live with now the whole process that I went through to get to where I’m at,” Coxson admitted. “I used to think about how, ‘I could have done this at Florida, I could have done this at Maryland.’”

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But, the 22-year old has found a way to put things in perspective after three seasons at a program in transition to arguably the best conference in Division I-AA, the Colonial Athletic Association.

“I’m still getting the opportunity that I would,” Coxson said. “I’m still getting an opportunity to play in the NFL.”

That, at the end of the day, is a lofty goal for any kid growing up. It does not matter how many yards one gains in high school or how many touchdowns a player can grab−it means nothing if that same production does not continue into college and beyond, no matter the school.

In an offense at Stony Brook that is known for its ground-and-pound mentality, it is not easy to get touches at the wide receiver position. Since Coxson arrived on Long Island in 2012, the Seawolves have run the ball for at least 61 percent of the snaps in each season that has gone by.

Yet, Coxson showed at times that his big play ability was still there. His 43 catches for 664 yards this past season may not jump off paper, but what will were three of his six touchdowns. He took it 61 yards to the house to open the year against Bryant, 83 yards against William & Mary and 79 yards at Albany.

No matter the level of competition those were against, there were 11 men on another team that could not tackle him. That is not something to sneeze at.

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As the season ended and Coxson completed his studies, there were still months before April 1, his pro day, likely the last chance that Coxson will have to prove to NFL scouts and teams that he deserves a chance. There, he must show his physical ability in events such as the 40-yard dash, bench press and a variety of other drills.

That is where Super Bowl champion and 10-year NFL veteran Qadry Ismail came into the picture. Coxson had met Matt Zenitz, Maryland football beat writer for the Baltimore Sun Media Group in high school, who connected him and the former ESPN NFL analyst.

“He’s working out really well,” Ismail said. “[I’m] very impressed.”

For all intents and purposes, both the former pro and Stony Brook student-athlete have the same end-goal in mind: for Coxson to find a way into the NFL Draft.

“What I’ve seen is he is every bit of a very good, fluid moving, very fast young man with the size,” Ismail said, adding that the Seawolf has other naturally gifted qualities as well. “You mix that with the strong work ethic, then you wind up having a guy that could literally be very effective when it comes to helping himself move up the draft.”

Coxson has listened to every word that Ismail has said during their time on and off the field, just as he should, as he is getting to work with a man who caught 33 touchdowns in the NFL.

“I’m just learning all the technique that he knows,” the Seawolf said. “I’ve gotten faster over the past few weeks in working with him.”

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That is something for a player who has already shown that he can burn his coverage deep. However, he has taken everything in the process one step at a time.

“My first goal was to work out, get ready for the all star game,” Coxson said about playing in the College Gridiron Showcase on Jan. 31., an exhibition that gives draft hopefuls a chance to show their talent in front of over 100 scouts. “I did that. “

“My next goal was to have a good week of practice at the all star game,” he said, but he did more than that, as some scouts even took to social media to mention that the FCS receiver caught their attention.  “I had a great week of practice.”

“I had to prove that I still was able to play with that level of competition that I once played with coming out of high school,” Coxson said. “I feel like I did that.”

Just like many kids growing up, he has dreamt of becoming one of the few that earns the right to play football on the biggest stage: the NFL.

Unlike those others, he has a different motive to do so.

“I think about my son going into every workout,” Coxson said. The talented route runner enjoyed the birth of his son after his junior season at Stony Brook. “This one shot that I get can make his life so much easier growing up.”

He is right, as even those who do not make the active roster of an NFL team, but manage to earn a spot on the practice squad, make a minimum of $6,300 per week.

“One, I love the game of football,” Coxson said about what accomplishing his goals would do for him. “Two, I have the chance to put my family in a better position financially, to help them, you know, ease their life a little bit.”

So, every hour-long drive to the facility just north of Baltimore where Coxson trains for an hour to an hour and a half at 5 a.m., to the pool workouts and flexibility work following it, the time in the hot tub, cardio and football drills that fill up his life, everything becomes worth it.

“If I do as well as I know I will,” Coxson said, looking ahead to his pro day. “I’ll put myself in a good position to get drafted.”

To get to that point, he wants NFL teams to know that he brings more than just route running and speed to the table.

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“I’m a very physical player, a very hard worker and I love to block,” Coxson said. “I can turn a 5 yard play into an 80 yard touchdown.”

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“I think you know one of the things that I’ve spoken with scouts before about is what do you do in big time moments and games?” Ismail said “What scouts will then say is, ‘Oh look, we want to take a chance on him because he’s showed up, because he’s been a tremendous blocker.”

Despite only recently starting their work together, Coxson has learned a lot from his mentor.

“It’s helped me tremendously, because he’s been through everything that I’ve been through as far as this NFL process,” he said. “He played on the big stage, so he knows what it takes to get to the level of play that I need to be at in order to perform at the pro day.”

It is that stage that Coxson wants to reach one day, for his love of a sport and, more importantly, the love of his family.

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