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Auburn's Shon Coleman has beaten leukemia, in line to start

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Auburn sophomore Shon Coleman is tasked with replacing Greg Robinson, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, as the Tigers' starting left tackle.

Forgive Coleman if he doesn't think it's a big deal replacing the first lineman taken in the draft: Replacing Robinson will be nothing compared to beating leukemia.

Coleman (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) will start Saturday for the Tigers against Arkansas; it'll be his first start since he was a high school senior in the fall of 2009.

"I never doubted," Coleman told auburnundercover.com, part of the 247 Sports network. "Faith is one of the biggest things that kept pushing me and my family forward."

Coleman signed with Auburn in February 2010; he was a consensus national top-100 prospect and was considered one of the nation's top 10 tackles (tackles rated higher included Ja'Wuan James, Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel, all of whom became first-round picks, and Coleman was considered a better prospect than current Texas A&M star Cedric Ogbuehi). But he was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2010 and quickly began treatment.

He enrolled at Auburn in January 2011 while still undergoing treatment; at that time, football was a faraway hope. He completed 30 months of treatment in October 2012. Through it all, while there was no football, Coleman had been going to class; he graduated in May with a degree in public administration and will play this fall as a graduate student.

Coleman finally made it back onto the field last September, almost three years after he first was diagnosed. He ended up playing in eight games, proving he could handle the rigors of major-college football. And he scoffs at the idea that pressure comes with replacing Robinson.

"There is no pressure at all," Coleman said. "He's a great player, and I'm on a journey to be a great player myself."

Coleman has told various media outlets that a lifelong dream was to play in the NFL, and he was on stage for the first round of the draft in May. The NFL and Memphis' St. Jude Children's Research Hospital -- where Coleman was treated -- have teamed up to have a patient announce a draft pick in each of the past two drafts, and Coleman announced the No. 13 selection, which was Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald going to the Rams with their second first-round selection.

His is obviously a special situation, but Coleman has the talent and necessary skill set to one day hear his name called at the draft. He will spend Saturday trying to keep top-flight pass rusher Trey Flowers out of Auburn's backfield; Flowers plays both right and left defensive end for Arkansas, but is going to spend some of his day going against Coleman. Again, though, given what he already has accomplished, it's doubtful Coleman is worried.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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