- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

In less than four years, Laveranues Coles has gone from being a brash kid who was kicked off his college football team to a mature adult who now is one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL.
The Washington Redskins' newest acquisition certainly has come a long way in a short time.
"I've matured a whole lot over the past couple of years," Coles said yesterday during his introductory news conference at Redskin Park. "Just being a part of the National Football League allows you to see different people and learn different things about people. I've learned that this is a business and that you have to try to keep things in perspective. You're expected to perform. Being in the league has helped me become the man I am today."
There are some who questioned whether Coles, 25, would be able to overcome the self-imposed obstacles that led to his dismissal from the Florida State team and jeopardized his professional career.
But on his first official day as a Redskin, Coles acted every bit like one of the premier receivers in the NFL, one who is determined to prove he is worth every bit of the $35million owner Dan Snyder just agreed to pay him.
"I heard things, the skepticism about the amount of money I was paid, whether I was worth it or not," he said. "But it's good having pressure on me. That way I can't relax, I can't be satisfied with just getting the money. I have to go out there and perform or I'm going to be criticized."
Coles came under plenty of scrutiny in 1999, when as a senior at Florida State he was caught on videotape with teammate Peter Warrick paying only $21 for more than $400 worth of designer clothing at a Tallahassee department store. He ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petty theft, though not until after Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden kicked him off the team for originally denying involvement.
Warrick, who did immediately confess, was reinstated, finished his storied college career and became the No.4 overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft. Coles, who also was found to have violated NCAA rules by attending an all-expenses-paid party at the home of sports agent Carl Poston, saw his college career come to an abrupt end and slipped all the way to the third round of the draft.
Looking back on it all now, the 5-foot-11, 196-pound receiver realizes he had no choice but to accept the situation and grow up as a player and person.
"I had to put it behind me or my career would probably have been stopped short," he said. "Once you find yourself holding grudges, you aren't doing anything but preparing yourself for failure."
Coles stayed relatively under the radar in his NFL rookie season, playing in all 16 games with the New York Jets but catching just 22 passes. He began to make a name for himself in 2001 by earning a starting job, hauling in 59 passes and scoring seven touchdowns.
But it wasn't until last season that Coles elevated his game and legitimately established himself as one of the league's top receivers. Displaying his full range of talents, from 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash to superior route-running and pass-catching abilities, Coles quickly became quarterback Chad Pennington's favorite target.
He finished with 89 receptions, second-most in franchise history, for 1,264 yards (fourth most) and was deemed the Jets' MVP by coach Herman Edwards.
In evaluating their offseason options at wide receiver, the Redskins earmarked Coles early on as a top target. And though he came at great expense a five-year, $35million contract with a $13million signing bonus, plus the loss of a first-round draft pick as compensation for the restricted free agent Washington's coaching and front office staffs are convinced he was worth it.
"I think the offer we put out there was one that pretty much ensured we got Laveranues," coach Steve Spurrier said. "I hear the other teams say it wasn't the right value, but only time will tell. We certainly think it is. We believe Laveranues is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. And I think he's anxious to prove that in the years to come."
Those who know Coles best have seen the changes in him and know his sudden good fortune was made possible only by his own commitment.
"He really has come a long way," said Coles' mother, Sirretta Williams. "I've seen him mature and just continue to do so. This is one of the biggest moments of our life."
Coles just wants to make sure his new team gets its money's worth.
"You talk about a chunk of change wow, that's a lot of money there," he said. "They expect me to come in here and do some things. I'm just going to try my best."

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