Ro Coleman wanted to see his Coach after a team meeting once exams were finished.
"I said, Oh, God, what happened," Tim Corbin told me, worried that Ro hadn't passed a difficult class he needed to pass in order to graduate.
"Then he told me, Coach, I passed, I'm getting my degree," Corbs told me with much pride and emotion.
Ro Coleman graduated this spring from Vanderbilt University, and he earned every credit he achieved. He's a tireless worker on and off the baseball field, and the players admire the giant heart of this fine young man from inner city Chicago.
"He had it tough growing up," Corbs said. "And coming to Vanderbilt from the inner city is difficult. We have smart guys on our team, but this is the best of the best. It's challenging for our guys. But Ro is prideful, very prideful."
The best baseball program in the country with an Ivy League education was too much for Ro to pass up after hitting .530 his senior year. And in his senior year at Vanderbilt, he has been a spectacular player for the Commodores, particularly in the last month and a half of the season. Heading into the Corvallis Super Regional vs No.1 seed Oregon State tomorrow night, Ro, a super talented player, who stands 5'5", but is built extremely well and as tough a competitor as you'll find in college baseball, has hit .311 with 38 hits in 122 bats, he's stolen 7 of 9 bases and has played superior left field. Ro was a key factor in our team winning the Clemson regional. He was critical to our success.
And the main thing about Ro is what a unique person he is. Coming from inner city Chicago and making it through Vanderbilt University and being a star on the team his senior season, with more baseball to play, hopefully a lot more to play, has been more than deserved for the 5'5" giant in Vanderbilt baseball.
"He's one of the most popular players ever to come through here," Corbs said. "Price, Gray, Fulmer, Swanson, the list goes on. Ro is one of those guys."
He's one of these heartbeats on the team as Corbs likes to say. His father, Roynal (pronounced Ro-nall), his mother, Willisa Jackson, and younger brother, Randal, are beaming with pride for this absolutely terrific son and brother. The whole Vanderbilt community is.
Instead of going further, here is Ro in his own words, speaking about his life, his journey and his passion for the game of baseball.
DW: Ro that catch in left field you made against Arkansas, where you leapt three feet in the air and pulled it in was spectacular. Tell me about that a little bit. How did you make that catch?
Ro: "It was just a reaction. Playing other sports definitely allowed me to make a play like that. Playing basketball you have a pass in the passing lane you need to catch, or in football when there's a pass in the air you need to make a play on it. I saw it off the bat and got a good read on it and it was an OK catch."
It was sensational.
DW: What position did you play in football and basketball?
Ro: "I played slot receiver and cornerback in football and I played point guard till my freshman year."
DW: What got you into baseball? What got you passionate about it?
Ro: "Baseball has been in my family. My dad played baseball up till the single A and my uncle played up until triple A with the Mets."
DW: What is your uncle's name?
Ro: "Gerrod Davis."
DW: Your dad is a real factor in your life, tell me about him and what he's meant to you.
Ro: "He means everything to me. If it wasn't for my dad, I wouldn't be who I am today. He's been the biggest influence in my life. He got me playing baseball, but not only baseball, the reason I came to Vanderbilt is because of what my father did for me."
DW; What was so special about him?
Ro: "His care level. The way he always did whatever he could to make sure I was OK, and the way he took care of other people around him. He taught me to be grateful and humble and know that you're blessed to live on this Earth."
DW: So your dad played baseball for a while, tell me about that.
Ro; "He played college and he got drafted in the 24th round by the Cleveland Indians and played pro ball until he tore his Achilles and stopped playing after that. He had me. We started playing baseball when I was 6 years old. In my first game I got one hit, and my dad said, 'Is this something you want to do, to play in the Major Leagues?' I said yes, so we started working out two a days from then on."
DW:What did he teach about not only in sports, but about life?
Ro: "He said the main thing was if you want something you have to work really hard. In this world it's not easy at all coming from where we come from (inner city Chicago). Coming from my situation, it was about hard work, not only being successful in baseball, but being successful in life."
DW: Tell me about living in the inner city?
Ro: "It was definitely a rough environment. It was definitely a different scene than Nashville. But you get used to it, the violence and things. It's not something I wish on anybody, but it's made me the type of person I am today. Where I come from in Chicago, you have to grow up fast and there are certain situations that a lot of kids don't have to go through. It made me realize how lucky I am with every breath that I take."
DW: Tell me about your mom and your brother a little bit.
Ro: "My little brother and I have a different mother, he's 11. My mother is a cosmetologist (work with women's hair and makeup), but she's also a teacher. She helps teach special needs kids in a suburb of Chicago. And my little brother (Randal) goes to a private school out there. I love both of them to death."
DW: Tell me about Randal, is he a big baseball guy too?
Ro: "No he likes baseball, but he loves football. He loves contact. He's a really smart kid."
DW: Do you see him coming to Vanderbilt?
Ro: "He might come to Vanderbilt on an academic scholarship."
DW: Tell me about your experience at Vanderbilt.
Ro:" It's been great, I've been blessed. This has changed my life. If I didn't come to Vanderbilt, there's no telling where I'd be today. Not only Coach Corbin, but the whole staff, the athletic department, the student body, you just meet different people from different parts of the world. These are some things I'd never see in Chicago or at another school. And I'm just so happy I could go to Vanderbilt finish in four years and earn my degree. It was a blessing."
DW: Coach Corbin was telling me you had a touch and go situation with a class. Tell me about that a little bit.
Ro: "It was for my geology class. I was kind of on the borderline. I had a D and had a final I had to do well on to pass. When I took it and I saw I passed the class. It was really emotional for me that I passed the class. It just released some stress off of me. It was a humbling moment, kind of surreal, because growing up, I never thought I'd be in the situation I'm in today. It was a blessing for me to earn my degree from Vanderbilt."
DW: What was it like to step on that stage and get that diploma?
Ro: "It felt good even though we didn't get to attend the regular ceremony because we were in Arkansas playing. They had a separate one for the athletes who couldn't be there. It was great to really be with my family. My mom, my dad and grandma were there."
DW: Now you're the first Coleman to graduate from college since 1991?
Ro: "I'm the first one from my dad's side and my aunt on my mom's side graduated in 1990. But I'm the first one from my dad's family."
DW: What did your dad tell you when you graduated?
Ro; "He told me good job, but this was really just the beginning."
DW: Tell me about your future plans?
Ro: "Right now I'm focusing on finishing my college career on a high note."
DW: You liking left field?
Ro: "I love it. I just love being on the field, I don't care where I play at."
DW: How has that Vanderbilt experience benefit you?
Ro: "Vanderbilt has meant everything to me. They brought in an inner city kid and took me to a top 15 school and to earn a degree is a blessing."
DW: What has Coach Corbin meant to you?
Ro: "He's like a second father figure to me. When I visited Corbs, I felt the family environment right away, I knew right then I didn't need to go to any other schools."
And Ro Coleman has excelled, and is going to keep excelling this postseason and in his future in baseball and then possibly working with kids in the inner city. The journey has been challenging, but it's been one heckuva special ride for this special Vanderbilt baseball player. Next stop Corvallis, where Ro and his team try to navigate their way through Oregon State and make it to Omaha once again. Whether it happens or not, Ro Coleman's Vanderbilt career has been memorable, a memory that Vanderbilt players now and in the future will treasure. Ro is a Vanderbilt treasure. While Ro says he was blessed to be at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt has been blessed to have him. There's hopefully plenty more Ro left to play for us this postseason, and he'll always he one of those foundational players for Vanderbilt University. He personifies character, integrity, and the will to succeed. Those three traits take you a long way in life. Ro Coleman is and will be a tremendous success in life. Thanks Ro. Excited what you have in store for us this weekend and in the future.
Friday: Vanderbilt @Oregon State, 8 PM CT, ESPN2