Oak Forest’s Tevin Coleman embraces Super Bowl-worthy RB tandem

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Tevin Coleman scores a three-yard touchdown against the Packers in the NFC title game. (Getty Images)

HOUSTON — Running back Tevin Coleman didn’t think all this would happen so fast.

Two years ago, the Tinley Park native and Oak Forest High School alum was preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine and hoping to find a good match to start his pro career.

On Sunday, he’ll try to help the Atlanta Falcons win a Super Bowl against the New England Patriots as a major weapon in the NFL’s highest-flying offense.

‘‘I did not expect this at all,’’ he said Monday at Minute Maid Park. ‘‘This is a great opportunity, and I’m going to enjoy it.’’

He has done that all season. In 13 regular-season games, Coleman had 118 carries for 520 yards. Only 10 running backs ran for more touchdowns than his eight, and each had more carries. With two exceptions, all had at least 100 more carries than he did.

‘‘He’s really fast,’’ center Alex Mack said. ‘‘He does a great job outrunning people. He’s a really dynamic running back who’s done some great things in the run game and also [catching] the ball.’’

Only seven running backs topped Coleman’s 421 receiving yards (on 31 catches) during the regular season. That might be more impressive than his home-run gallops, given that, like Bears running back Jordan Howard after him, he emerged from an Indiana offense that seldom threw to him.

In fact, Coleman said, it probably took a year for him to adjust to the Falcons’ offense, a fact that might leave Bears fans salivating about Howard’s possible second-year jump.

‘‘It was a lot when I came here, with the offense lining up out wide and things like that,’’ said Coleman, whom the Falcons selected in the third round of the 2015 draft. ‘‘It was just getting comfortable with lining up out wide.’’

Coleman and Howard never played on the Hoosiers together — Howard played only one season at Indiana after transferring from UAB in 2015 — but Coleman called him a ‘‘real good dude’’ who shared his quiet demeanor.

Like Howard, he talked about having to keep his body fresh. He played in 12 games as rookie in 2015.

Coleman carries the sickle-cell trait and initially was hesitant to play this season in Denver because the blood disorder can result in complications in high altitude. But he caught four passes for 132 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown, in that game against the Broncos.

‘‘There’s a lot that goes into it — a lot,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘Last year I had a couple of muscle injuries, pulled muscles. It was knowing how to be a pro and learning how to take care of my body and things like that.’’

Because he did, the Falcons have what Coleman called the best one-two running back punch in the NFL. Devonta Freeman gained 1,079 yards on 227 carries in the regular season.

‘‘Keeping the other guy fresh is the main objective,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘Me and Devonta, we have a great bond, a great connection. So whoever’s in there, we’re going to make plays.’’

The harmony was broken for a bit when Freeman’s agent told NFL.com Monday that his client expects to be paid like an elite back — and soon. General manager Thomas Dimitroff said he spoke with Freeman, who said he was focused on the Super Bowl.

‘‘This is where he wants to be, and we’d like to have him here,’’ Dimitroff said.

That would mean more time for Freeman to pair with Coleman, who has two years left on his contract.

‘‘Devonta brings something to the table,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘I do, too.’’

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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