Coate playing professionally in Canada

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Homestead graduate Seth Coate plays professionally for the Ottawa RedBlacks in the Canadian Football League. (Contributed)

By Dean Jackson

OTTAWA, Ontario — There’s not much that Homestead graduate Seth Coate hasn’t experienced in football.

He’s a coaches kid, he’s been a ball boy, he’s played dozens of games in high school, college and now the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Redblacks.

But he’s in uncharted territory this summer. The second-year pro is sidelined with an MCL tear in his right knee. It’s his first significant injury since junior high.

Fresh off surgery, Coate says he’ll be back to help the Redblacks in their push for the playoffs.

He’s optimistic he can come back strong.

“I’m going to push my body,” Coate said. “My body heals quickly. We’ll see what we can do.”

Before the injury late in the first half against Montreal, July 13, Coate saw his way into the line-up. Coate has caught four passes for 83 yards and started in three games this season.

Last year, in just his first season, he played for a Grey Cup — the CFL championship — losing to Calgary.

Not bad for a guy who hadn’t given a thought about football north of the border and didn’t even know of the league until a few years ago.

He admits, it’s all a surprise, really.

“My first day changed my opinion. There are boys who can play — and that’s a fact.”

The biggest adjustment was the style of play. It’s a longer field — 110 yards by 65 yards, with a 20-yard end zone for the CFL, while the American field is 100 by 53.5 yards with a 10-yard end zone.

The personnel are different, too. There are 12 players in Canada instead of 11. If that’s not enough, everyone in the offensive backfield can be in motion at the same time.

“That’s double the movement, that’s double the plays. It can be pretty tricky. It took me quite a bit of time to learn it because everything was so foreign,” Coate said.

He also had to learn 40 pages of plays.

“It’s a finesse game. The older, more experienced guys might be as big. They are very aware of where they are on the field. It’s a lot of reading the defense and getting to open spots.”

He says is fun to play with and against guys he watched play in major college football.

“I find myself saying, I remember him, and now I’m playing against them. It’s a cool feeling,” Coate said.

He doesn’t overlook his success or what it took to get him to professional football.

“I never thought I’d be in this position. I never thought in middle school I’d be playing at (the University of) Saint Francis. I thought no way. I’m just very grateful.”

After leading USF to the NAIA championship and a brief tryout with the Arizona Cardinals, he was transitioning to life after college.

Even with a taste of the NFL, professional football wasn’t a realistic opportunity. There’s too much talent.

The difference between small college football and the pros was overwhelming. He noticed the size and the speed first. Colleges have big and they have fast, but they rarely have both in one player.

“Instead of having those one or two guys that are really outstanding on a college team, that’s everyone on the field,” Coate recalled about his time in Arizona.

“(In the pros) you aren’t watching film playing Where’s Waldo trying to find out who to attack this week. You’ve got the best of the best. They can pick who ever they want, wherever they want.”

He did his best. It was time, or so he thought.

“I came home. I thought that was my legacy. I got a lot further than I ever thought I was going to. I never thought I’d get an opportunity, to be honest,” he said. “I thought it’s time for me to grow up and be a man, and started working.”

He says he’s faced with another challenge to man up — recover from his injury and surgery — something he’s determined to do.

“I’m just going to keep my head down and get through this tough time and come out on top,” Coate said.