It may have been cold on his recent recruiting visit to Wyoming, but the warmth C.J. Coldon felt from the coaching staff, players and fans of the Cowboys helped lead the Althoff High senior receiver and defensive back to his college decision.
Coldon has verbally committed to Wyoming and will sign with the Cowboys in February. The other local connection in Wyoming is Belleville West graduate Brian Hill, now a junior running back and the Cowboys’ all-time rushing leader.
“The only thing in the state that every one supports is Wyoming football and Wyoming sports in general,” Coldon said. “They just showed a lot of love and there’s a lot of good, genuine people out there. It was the atmosphere, the goals I have for myself and the goals the coaches have for the team. It was a good fit for me.
“I feel like I can excel and become a better person and better player at Wyoming.”
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Coldon traveled to Wyoming earlier this month to watch the Cowboys play San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship game. It’s obviously a lot colder than Southern Illinois, but Coldon has a plan.
“Me and cold don’t get along if I’m standing around, but if I’m playing I won’t be cold,” he said.
Coldon’s other offers were from Miami (Ohio), New Mexico, North Dakota State, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, Bowling Green and Tennessee Martin.
Before choosing Wyoming, he said he narrowed it down to a list that also included North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, New Mexico and SIU.
“No more official visits, that was my first one and my last one,” Coldon said. “It was a great trip. A lot of the guy on the trip with me actually committed, too.”
One of them was Rochester receiver Avante’ Cox, who helped the Rockets beat the Crusaders in the Class 4A quarterfinals last month.
Coldon led Althoff receivers with 58 catches this season for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns. That boosted his career total in three years as a starter to 164 catches for 2,797 yards and 32 touchdowns, all three the second-most in school history behind Jackson State freshman Keenen Young.
In three years as a starting defensive back, Coldon had 157 tackles and six interceptions, including 49 tackles, one sack and an interception this year.
Althoff was 31-6 with Coldon in the starting lineup, including 24-2 the past two seasons.
“I was just here playing the game and playing the spots that ‘Coach T’ (Ken Turner) put me in in,” Coldon said. “He put me the right position to make those type plays.”
Turner said Coldon was a big part of the glue that holds the football and basketball teams together. He wasn’t always the most noticed player, but the teams were much better with him in the lineup.
“What that means is he’s been blessed to be around some talented guys and play on some talented basketball and football teams,” Turner said, “where guys overshadow each other on different nights.”
Coldon said Wyoming coaches want him to begin his career at cornerback, a position he played at Althoff along with safety and receiver.
“They want me to learn that first and once I learn that I can start getting in the mix on offense and special teams,” Coldon said.
“He’s such a good athlete that once they get him in and get him working with their coaches and their techniques and seeing his strengths, he can play either corner or safety, or receiver,” Turner said. “He’s good at all three positions. A lot of times he did great things on the field that were unnoticed to untrained eyes. You might have a really good receiver that only had one or two catches — and that’s because they can’t get of the line with him jamming them. “
Coldon was a starter on Althoff’s Class 3A state basketball championship team last season and also played on the runner-up basketball team as a sophomore. His junior year football squad also finished second in the state and Coldon lamented being unable to help bring another football state title to Belleville.
“We promised ‘Coach T’ and we couldn’t do it,” Coldon said. “Deep down we know that we only lost two games in two years, but they were the biggest games that counted.”
Hill is the Cowboys’ career rushing leader with 4,194 yards and recently was named a third-team All-American by College Sports Madness. Hill was a first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back.
Hill ranks fourth in the nation this season with a single-season school record 1,767 rushing yards and is also fourth nationally with 21 rushing TDs. He also ranks 13th in the country in scoring (9.7 points per game) and 17th in all-purpose yards per game (141.69).
Wyoming (8-5) will face Brigham Young University (8-4) in the Poinsettia Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 21 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The game will be televised by ESPN; this is Wyoming’s first bowl game appearance since 2011.
C.J. Coldon by the numbers
Senior: 58 catches, 965 yards, 12 TDs
Junior: 64 catches, 1,347 yards, 17 TDs
Sophomore: 42 catches, 485 yards, three TDs
Career: 164 catches, 2,797 yards, 32 TDs
Senior: 49 tackles, one sack, one interception
Junior: 69 tackles, two interceptions
Sophomore: 39 tackles, three interceptions
Career: 157 tackles, six interceptions