AS HE HOPSCOTCHED around the country to meet with NFL teams, Shon Coleman resisted the aroma of doughnuts, cookies and chicken fingers lurking near every airport gate. When he made it home to his apartment in Auburn, Ala., he took comfort in the healthy foods beneath his refrigerator light—bottled water, peanut butter and pineapple.
A second-team All-SEC left tackle at Auburn, Coleman, 24, projects as a second-round pick in this week's draft, but he's had to go through more than most players to reach the NFL. He missed his first two seasons at Auburn after he was found to have leukemia in the spring of 2010. He spent the next two years in intensive chemotherapy before being cleared to play in the spring of 2012. A two-year starter for the Tigers, he's now as fit as he's ever been.
To prepare for the NFL combine in February, Coleman trained in Phoenix and Pensacola, Fla., gaining 10 pounds of muscle while cutting his body fat from 21% to 18%. He now checks in at 6' 6", 315 pounds, and he stresses the importance of the dining room over the weight room. "The diet part is more important than the lifting weight parts," he says. "If you don't have a good diet, it's going to set you up for failure."
After entering school at 285 pounds, Coleman needed to add weight. Enter his favorite shake: peanut butter and banana with whey protein. The high-protein, high-fat treat helped him bulk up. "I have an athletic body," he says about his fight to get big. "I'm a lean guy."
Steak, chicken, pasta
After his cancer treatment Coleman needed to regain weight and make up for lost time. He concentrated on good carbs such as spaghetti with marinara sauce and proteins such as steak and chicken. "You have to fill your body with good fuel," he says, "if you want to perform at a high level."
Coleman loves California rolls, a medley of crab, avocado and cucumber. Growing up in Olive Branch, Miss., he knew anything could be fried; he also knew that to develop into a high-end left tackle, he needed to eat cleaner. So he snacks on fruit, and when he craves a roll he orders it the traditional way.
Coleman is still deciding where he'll have his celebratory meal after getting picked. One front-runner: dry-rubbed ribs and brisket with baked beans and collard greens from his favorite Memphis barbecue spot, Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous.
KEVIN D. LILES (COLEMAN)
GETTY IMAGES (BANANAS)
BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP (SKIPPY)
STOCKFOOD/GETTY IMAGES (SPAGHETTI)
ANNMARIE AVILA (SUSHI)
CYRUS MCCRIMMON/THE DENVER/GETTY IMAGES (RIBS)