High School Football

Plug and play: Althoff’s C.J. Coldon is a force no matter where he is on the field

C.J. Coldon (21) is the Althoff Crusaders’ first 1,000-yard receiver.
C.J. Coldon (21) is the Althoff Crusaders’ first 1,000-yard receiver. tvizer@bnd.com

C.J. Coldon doesn’t look at opposing defenses as a challenge.

The talented Althoff High junior receiver views every defender as the enemy, someone who must be defeated in any way possible.

It’s like imagining the defense has his cell phone, hacked his Twitter account and sliced up his game jerseys.

“Even in practice he never goes down,” Althoff receiver Jordan Goodwin said. “(In games) it seems like he makes three people miss every time he gets the ball, and if he does get tackled, it’s by like five people. Every single time.”

Coldon doesn’t even let his own teammates off the hook, including Althoff’s 120-tackle, nine-sack linebacker Bryson Strong.

“He tells Bryson every practice ‘One person can’t tackle me,’’’ Goodwin said. “He believes it.”

So do the people trying to bring him down.

Coldon, the only two-way starter for a 10-0 Althoff team playing Quincy Notre Dame (7-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Class 4A playoffs, has 48 catches for 1,033 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Against Mater Dei, Coldon had 10 receptions for a school-record 272 yards — the 18th-highest output in Illinois football history — and a touchdown.

(In games) it seems like he makes three people miss every time he gets the ball, and if he does get tackled, it’s by like five people. Every single time.

Althoff receiver Jordan Goodwin on C.J. Coldon

“I always grew up around the game, so the game comes naturally,” said Coldon, whose father, Charles Coldon Sr., was a three-year starter at receiver at East St. Louis Lincoln and later played for Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Fisk. “It’s a great time to be alive. The chemistry we have just makes it even more fun to play with the guys I’m playing with.”

In 2014 and 2015, Coldon has 90 catches for 1,518 yards and 16 TDs.

Althoff reaches second round of playoffs with dominant win over Clinton

“That’s the good part about getting him the ball, you always expect yards after the catch,” Althoff quarterback Jordan Augustine said.

HUMAN HIGHLIGHT REEL

When asked to pick a signature Coldon highlight this season, four people gave different answers for the first 1,000-yard receiver in Althoff history.

“Against Mount Vernon, he came across the middle and caught a slant, just bounced off two kids,” Althoff coach Ken Turner said. “He got hit, a very hard hit by the kid, and he just kept moving. He ended up scoring a 40-yard touchdown. A lot of times when you watch him running, there’s like four or five guys trying to get him down — and he’s still standing.

“He turns into a running back once he catches the ball.”

Althoff senior receiver Tarkus Ferguson recalled the leaping one-handed TD grab Coldon made during a summer scrimmage game against Kokomo, Ind., that left everyone shaking their heads in disbelief.

“It was like an Odell Beckham play,” Ferguson said, referencing the New York Giants receiver who had a signature one-handed TD grab against Dallas last year as a rookie. “We always talk about Odell and I guess he had the feeling to do it so he went up and grabbed it.

“It was unbelievable. I’ve seen him do a lot of one-handed catches, but that one was spectacular.”

He looks like a guy on the NFL broadcast where they’re talking about Vince Lombardi and Lambeau Field — and then C.J. pops out looking to just take names and kick tail.

Althoff basketball coach Greg Leib on C.J. Coldon

Coldon is always a play away from tacking on a few more frames to his personal highlight video.

In a little less than 18 minutes during Saturday’s 62-27 playoff win over Clinton, Coldon caught a 10-yard TD pass, returned a punt 72 yards for another TD and scored again on a 41-yard interception return.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Augustine, who has thrown for a school-record 2,636 yards and 30 TDs while utilizing Coldon and senior wideout Keenen Young (53 catches, 869 yards, 13 TDs). “(C.J.) can do it all. He just succeeds at every position he plays.

“He’s a funny guy, always has a smile on his face and joking around. He’s kind of like a silent assassin almost. He keeps to himself and let’s his game speak for itself.”

Althoff basketball coach Greg Leib believes Coldon is a throwback player who would have felt right at home in the 1960s or ’70s.

“He’s just got an old-school game,” Leib said. “He looks like a guy on the NFL broadcast where they’re talking about Vince Lombardi and Lambeau Field — and then C.J. pops out looking to just take names and kick tail.”

Want another highlight? Goodwin brings up a pass reception against Jefferson City Helias.

“He got it right across the middle between the linebackers,” said Goodwin, a major Division I basketball recruit not easily impressed by others’ athletic talent in his own right, or as a summer hoops teammate of Chaminade’s Duke-bound All-American Jayson Tatum said. “He stiff-armed one dude, then broke the other tackle and kept going for a touchdown.”

SPORTS IN HIS BLOOD

Coldon is confident, but never comes off cocky.

He and his family were so close to former Althoff all-state running back Jason Ford, attending nearly every game, that C.J. considers Ford to be his cousin.

272 Coldon’s receiving yardage against Mater Dei this season, the 18th highest total in Illinois prep football history

Ford ran for 6,415 yards (seventh-highest in state history) and 75 touchdowns in high school, then tacked on another 1,962 yards and 26 TDs at Illinois. He was in NFL training camps with two teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coldon wears No. 21 because Ford did, and on Twitter earlier this year told Ford that Coldon was the best player to wear No. 21 at Althoff.

“I told him that just joking around with him,” Coldon said. “But I hope I can put up those numbers my last two years, or at least try. I used to watch him play and I was shocked.

“It was just too easy for him, he was bigger than everybody and faster, more athletic.”

Coldon has some early Division I interest, but no firm offers. Schools with interest include Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State and Wyoming.

“I’m going to have the chance to go to a lot of camps,” he said.

Coldon was also a talented basketball player at Emge-Ellis Grade School in Belleville who grew up playing on the Southern Illinois Tigers AAU team with Goodwin, Ferguson and other current teammates.

When Goodwin arrived as a much-hyped freshman at Althoff, everyone seemed to be impressed. Except for Coldon.

“When C.J. Was a freshman we had all these guys like ‘Goody this and Goody that’ and C.J. would go at Goody every day in basketball practice,” Leib said. “His toughness is infectious because no one else wants to look weak, everybody else wants to compete.

“It’s a great attribute. One you can’t buy get on any video or get on the Internet. You’ve got to develop it. Either you have it or you don’t.”

Coldon, formally Charles Coldon Jr., is the only two-way starter on a 10-0 state-ranked team, moving over from the cornerback position he played last season to start at safety along with receiver. He rarely comes off the field.

When he was 7, Coldon broke his wrist while playing with the Belleville Little Knights youth football team. Once his dad discovered his son playing sandlot football in full pads in the neighborhood, he asked C.J. If he was ready to get back on the field.

“My last two games, I scored four touchdowns against O’Fallon and Waterloo,” C.J. Coldon said.

In basketball last season, Coldon was more than a capable replacement at point guard when Young was injured and helped the Crusaders to a second-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament.

PLUG AND PLAY

Turner said Coldon was a known talent before coming to Althoff, but the coach didn’t realize just how versatile he was.

“He stuck out early on as far as having a good knowledge of the game and being a good receiver,” Turner said. “Growing up, he didn’t play one position, he was doing it all. he was learning all those positions and becoming good at all of them.

“He’s got the heart that drives him and he’s a serious competitor. He hates losing.”

It’s not easy being a receiver at Althoff this season with so much talent on the field. But with Young on one side, Coldon on the other and Ferguson and Goodwin as capable targets, it creates an effective set of weapons.

“We’ve had some talented receivers, and those guys are very talented receivers,” Turner said. “We have some that were fast, some with good hands, some that were fierce competitors and some ran great routes.

“To me, watching C.J., it seems like he’s got a little bit of all of that in his arsenal. It helps him out because he can do it all. He’s the kind of kid that can play everything.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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