Laveranues Coles hurdled many obstacles before he became a Pro Bowl wide receiver in the National Football League.
First, his stepfather molested him at gunpoint when he was a child.
He then had several run-ins with the law when he played for the Florida State Seminoles in college.
Nobody could blame those teams who passed up on him in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Fortunately, Bill Pacells’ New York Jets took a chance on the troubled wide receiver.
Coles wound up spending seven of his ten NFL seasons with the Jets. He had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons during his pro football career.
Long story short, Laveranues Coles rose from obscurity to become one of the best wide receivers in New York Jets franchise history.
Laveranues Leon Coles was born in Jacksonville, FL on December 29, 1977.
He earned the nickname “Trouble” after his mother Sirretta labored in the hospital for four days before conceiving him, per the Orlando Sentinel’s Alan Schmadtke.
Coles revealed he was a victim of child sexual abuse at the beginning of the 2005 NFL season.
He told The New York Times (via ESPN) on September 19, 2005 his stepfather – a man his mother Sirretta married – was the perpetrator.
Coles said the molestations happened when he was between 10 and 13 years of age.
He told “The Oprah Winfrey Show” his stepfather molested him at gunpoint in the evenings after his mother left to work the night shift.
The man threatened to kill both Coles and his mother if he told her.
“My soul was damaged,” Coles told Oprah.com. “I felt like I was trapped.”
He never confided to anybody – even his closest friends on the New York Jets roster – about it during his first few years in the National Football League.
Instead, he used his past to motivate himself on the pro gridiron.
Unfortunately, Coles’ experience with his stepfather took its toll on his academics.
Not only did his grades dip, but feelings of rage began to manifest.
Not content with his misdeed, Coles’ stepfather even spread rumors the former was a homosexual when he was in the eighth grade.
When Coles found out one of his best friends helped spread the rumor, he beat him up badly, per Oprah.com.
Sirretta Coles found out about her son’s ordeal shortly afterward. She wept bitterly when she received the shocking news in Laveranues’ school.
Laveranues Coles’ harrowing ordeal made him withdrawn when he became an adult. He eventually became reclusive and distrustful of women.
Coles felt compelled to share his childhood story so other kids didn’t have to suffer in silence.
His stepfather received a nine-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty in 1992.
He received a lengthier sentence after he was convicted of another crime three-and-a-half years later.
Coles attended Jean Ribault High School in his hometown.
Jean Ribault High School (Jacksonville, FL)
Laveranues Coles ’96
Chris Terry ’94
Travis Taylor ’97
Kelvin Martin ’83
Jakob Johnson ’14
Chad Fann ’88
Naz Worthen ’84
Leon Gonzalez ’80
Booker Reese ’77
Howard Dinkins ’88
Tom Tutson ’77@RibaultTrojanFB pic.twitter.com/5aMM0FaNHJ
— Prep2ProDB (@Prep2ProDB) February 22, 2022
Even back in the day, Laveranues Coles was more of a homebody. He has also been a big movie buff.
When Coles entered his eighth NFL season in 2007, he told NewYorkJets.com’s Randy Lange his typical routine in high school was playing sports and watching movies at home.
He loved watching “The Wizard of Oz” every time a television station aired it.
Coles also recalled his grandfather watching a lot of Westerns and pro wrestling on television. He shunned the latter after he found out it was predetermined.
Laveranues Coles excelled in football, basketball, and track for the Jean Ribault Mighty Trojans.
Coles became a Class 4A All-State selection after amassing nearly 5,000 rushing yards in his high school football career.
He also earned a state title as a member of the Mighty Trojans basketball team as a senior.
While Laveranues Coles’ stint with the Florida State Seminoles was marred by various controversies, he never let them deter him from becoming a big-name wide receiver in the National Football League.
College Days With The Florida State Seminoles
Laveranues Coles remained in-state and attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL from 1996 to 1999.
Coles suited up for legendary Seminoles head football coach Bobby Bowden.
Success with Florida State and New York Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles who was a Pro Bowler with Washington in 2003 and whose childhood nickname was "Trouble". Details at SASE Sports Sigs. Link in bio. #laveranuescoles #jets #seminoles @autographblog pic.twitter.com/yPvFdlIhz5
— Chris @ SASE Sports Sigs.net (@sasesportssigs) August 16, 2020
It seemed Laveranues Coles put his football future in jeopardy after he and Seminoles teammate Peter Warrick made headlines during their senior season.
Tallahassee authorities charged Coles, Warrick, and Dillard’s clerk Rachel Myrtil with grand theft after the two FSU players purchased $412.30 worth of clothing for just $21.40 on October 8, 1999.
An off-duty police officer witnessed the incident through a surveillance camera.
Authorities met with the two Seminoles wide receivers at Coles’ apartment. Coles purchased a hat, three t-shirts and one pair of jeans.
He turned them over to police after their meeting. They released Coles and Warrick at Leon County Jail without bond.
FSU dismissed Lavernues Coles from the team shortly afterward.
Florida State athletic director Dave Hart told ESPN Coles’ dismissal stemmed from an earlier probation due to legal and academic issues.
Coles had an earlier run-in with the law during his junior season at FSU.
Police charged Coles with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he figured in a skirmish at a Tampa restaurant parking lot in 1998. They eventually dropped the charges.
Authorities also charged him with misdemeanor battery after he allegedly slapped his stepmother outside her residence that same year.
It turned out Coles acted in retaliation after his stepmother initially struck his birth mother, per the Orlando Sentinel.
Nonetheless, the Seminoles suspended Coles for their season opener against the Texas A&M Aggies.
He served 150 hours of community service for the misdemeanor battery charge.
The Seminoles also suspended Coles for their season opener during his senior season in 1999 for academic reasons.
Seminoles offensive coordinator Mark Richt had a heart-to-heart talk with Coles in October 1998.
According to Coles, Richt told him he would become one of the biggest disappointments in Seminoles football program history if he never reached his full potential.
Coles told the Orlando Sentinel he took Richt’s words as a massive compliment. He never had a sit-down conversation like that with anybody.
Laveranues Coles didn’t have a spectacular college football career at Florida State.
He averaged two touchdowns per season and never had more than 397 receiving yards in four years in Tallahassee, FL.
Coles helped the Seminoles average eleven wins per season and win two Sugar Bowls in 1997 and 1999. The latter accolade was Florida State’s second national title.
While Coles didn’t blow up the stat sheets as a college wideout, he took things to a higher level when he turned pro in 2000.
Laveranues Coles was a big fan of the Disney full-length animated featured film “The Lion King” during his college days.
He admitted to NewYorkJets.com in 2007 that he watched it almost every day when he attended FSU. He still watched it regularly when he was a veteran wide receiver with the Jets.
Coles felt that Simba’s (the cub and heir apparent who became the Lion King) experiences resonated deeply with him.
In some ways, Simba’s ascent from heir apparent to king resembled Laveranues Coles’ rise in the pro football ranks from 2000 to 2009.
Pro Football Career
The New York Jets made Laveranues Coles the 78th overall selection of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Coles admitted to Jim Gehman of the Jets’ official website in the spring of 2021 that the weeks leading up to the draft were an anxious time for him.
Coles entered the professional ranks at a time when Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ray Carruth and Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis were facing murder charges.
Coles felt he fit into the category of NFL rookies with checkered and troubled pasts.
He already had arrest records for simple battery and grand theft when he played for the Florida State Seminoles in college.
Despite Coles’ past, the New York Jets expressed plenty of interest in him.
Coles told Gehman that he met Jets offensive coordinator Dan Henning at Olive Garden. They spent a lot of time getting to know each other.
However, Jets head coach Al Groh and wide receivers coach Todd Haley didn’t want Coles.
Fortunately, Jets general manager Bill Parcells overruled them.
“Well, it ain’t your decision, it’s mine,” Parcells told them (as Coles narrated to Gehman twenty-one years later). “Take the kid.”
Parcells also warned Jets head of security Steve Yarnell, who did a background check on Coles, he was holding him accountable if the rookie wide receiver didn’t pan out.
Even though Coles finally broke into the pro football ranks, he wasn’t pleased a lot of teams passed up on him.
“So I was excited, but at the same time I was mad because I believe I was the 16th or 17th receiver taken,” Coles told NewYorkJets.com in May 2021. “I felt a lot of those guys wasn’t as talented as I was or had greater potential at the next level.”
Laveranues Coles had a score to settle with the teams that ignored him. He proved he belonged in the National Football League as his career progressed.
Coles knew the Jets desperately needed a talented wideout who could replace Keyshawn Johnson, who New York recently traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coles recalled the Jets telling him after the draft that he wasn’t Johnson’s replacement. They wanted him to tell the media he’s more of a special teams guy who will play a valuable role.
Laveranues Coles didn’t buy it.
He knew from the outset he would replace Keyshawn Johnson as the Jets’ No. 1 receiver.
However, a knee injury limited Coles to 370 receiving yards and a solitary touchdown in thirteen games in 2000.
Although Gang Green won nine games that year, they still missed the postseason for the eighth time in nine years.
Although Coles’ pro football career got off to a slow start, his passion for movies never waned.
Coles loved the Russell Crowe movie “Gladiator.” It hit theaters the same year the Jets drafted him.
The film resonated deeply with him just like “The Lion King” several years earlier, per the Jets’ official website.
Coles’ routine leading up to his eighth pro football season was buying new DVD releases every Tuesday.
Prior to the 2007 NFL season, he was raving about “300” and “Spider-Man 3.”
Coles didn’t exaggerate when he gave a ballpark figure of his DVD numbers.
“How many DVDs do I have? Whoo!” Coles told the Jets’ official website in 2007. “I couldn’t even give you a number. I’d guesstimate over two thousand.”
Most of Coles’ DVDs are action flicks. He splits them between his hometown of Jacksonville, FL and his residence in Long Island, NY.
Laveranues Coles’ pro football career took off when Herm Edwards took over the reins for the Jets in 2001.
Coles remembered Edwards telling him he was going to give him a fair shot, per NewYorkJets.com.
At that moment, Coles knew he would thrive under the spotlight in the Big Apple.
He also benefited from a dynamic locker culture that included Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin and explosive wide receivers Santana Moss and Wayne Chrebet.
“I enjoyed playing the game so much with the guys we had, especially in our receiving corps room,” Coles told the Jets’ official website in 2021.
Coles had 868 receiving yards and a career-high seven touchdowns on 59 receptions during the 2001 NFL season.
With Coles’ emergence, the Jets won ten games and ended a two-year postseason drought that year.
Unfortunately, the Jets lost to the then-Oakland Raiders in the AFC Wild Card Game, 38-24.
Laveranues Coles exceeded expectations in his first postseason game.
He had 123 receiving yards on eight receptions in the loss to the Raiders.
Coles had a career-high 1,264 receiving yards and five touchdown catches in his breakout 2002 NFL campaign.
He helped the Jets win nine games and return to the postseason for the second straight year.
Alas, New York lost in a rematch with Oakland in the AFC Divisional Round, 30-10.
Laveranues Coles forged a lifelong friendship with teammate and Jets quarterback Chad Pennington during their time together in New York.
Coles, Pennington, and their families regularly spent vacations together.
“We both truly care about each other outside of football,” Coles told Lange in 2007.
After Coles played out his rookie contract with the Jets, he signed with the then-Washington Redskins as a free agent following the 2002 NFL season.
One of Coles’ regrets about leaving the Jets was saying goodbye to his buddy Chad Pennington, per SI.com’s Josh Elliott.
When Coles signed with the Redskins in March 2003, Pennington called him and told him he watched their highlight video from the previous season.
Pennington couldn’t hold back the tears while he was watching. The Jets teammates were even featured in a Sesame Street episode four years later.
Despite a nagging toe injury, Coles recorded his second straight 1,000-yard season.
He had 1,204 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his first season in the nation’s capital.
Coles’ receiving yardage total was the most by a Washington player since Henry Ellard recorded 1,397 receiving yards a decade earlier, per NBC News’ Nunyo Demasio.
Coles’ 82 catches were also the most in franchise history since legendary wide receiver Art Monk recorded 86 receptions in 1989.
According to Demasio, Coles’ 19-game streak with at least five receptions established a modern-era NFL record.
Some NFL players would let record-breaking feats get into their heads.
Not Laveranues Coles, though.
For his part, Hall of Fame Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs marveled at Coles’ humility.
“He’s a receiver who could be a star-type personality, but he’s not,” Gibbs told NBC News in 2004. “He’s a go-getter.”
Coles was also tough as nails.
In Coles’ second game with the Redskins in the 2003 NFL season, he sustained two ferocious hits against the Atlanta Falcons.
One of those hits included a knee to the head that forced then-Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier to yank him out of the game.
Coles insisted on returning to the game.
When he did, he helped the Redskins secure a stirring 33-31 comeback victory over the Falcons.
Regrettably, Coles’ efforts went for naught as Washington stumbled to a 5-11 win-loss mark and missed the postseason for the tenth time in eleven seasons.
He received valuable consolation when he earned his first and only Pro Bowl berth following the 2003 NFL campaign.
Coles suited up in all 16 games for Washington in 2004.
While he had 950 receiving yards, he only had one touchdown reception all season long.
Coles returned for a second tour of duty with the New York Jets after the 2004 NFL season.
The Jets traded wide receiver Santana Moss to the Redskins so they could re-acquire Coles.
Coles averaged six touchdown catches in his next four seasons with the Jets.
He never had fewer than 646 receiving yards during that span.
Coles even had 1,098 receiving yards in the 2006 NFL season.
The Jets went through several up-and-down seasons when Laveranues Coles returned to the Big Apple.
New York averaged seven wins from 2005 to 2008. The Jets made the postseason just once during that time frame: a 37-16 loss to their hated division rivals, the New England Patriots, in the 2006 AFC Wild Card Game.
Coles spent one season with Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre with the Jets in 2008.
Coles was astounded at Favre’s frugality.
The Jets wide receiver noticed Favre regularly wore simple khaki camouflage shorts and replica Puma shoes to team practice.
“That’s the cheapest quarterback I’ve ever played with, and you can write that,” Coles told the New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro on October 8, 2008.
The Jets released Laveranues Coles on February 25, 2009.
He agreed to a four-year, $28 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals one week later.
Coles replaced Pro Bowl wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
Coles had 514 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 43 receptions in his lone season with the Bengals in 2009.
Cincinnati released him exactly one year after he signed with the team.
The Jets re-signed Coles twice within a four-month span from July 30, 2010 to December 4, 2010.
However, he never played a single down for New York in the 2010 NFL campaign.
Laveranues Coles hung up his cleats and rode off into the sunset shortly afterward.
He finished his ten-year NFL career with 8,609 receiving yards and 49 touchdowns on 674 receptions.
Laveranues Coles has three sons: Trillion, Landon, and Taylor. He also has a daughter Zya.
They currently reside in the Jacksonville, FL area.
Trillion Coles is currently a running back for the UCF Knights. His brothers Landon and Taylor are currently enrolled at the University of Miami and Bethune-Cookman University, respectively.
Coles filed a lawsuit that challenged a Jacksonville law that forbade bikini bars in December 2015.
His company, Trouble Livin Life LLC, tried to open a bikini bar in the Jacksonville area that month.
According to the Jacksonville Daily Record’s Karen Brune Mathis, Coles’ bar was named the Queen of Diamonds nightclub.
The Jacksonville Transit Authority eventually tore down the nightclub and converted it into a bus transit hub more than two years after Coles filed the lawsuit.
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