Cornered: Nickell Robey-Coleman


The Los Angeles Rams are loaded at every position, but the cornerback group is unique. They breathe trash talk, eat receivers and sleep on no one. That attitude inspires them, and they know it.

Nickell Robey-Coleman started the trash talk at yesterday’s opener for Super Bowl week. He got caught in a word-twist when he said “age has taken a toll” on Tom Brady. And that’s fine, because Robey-Coleman fuels the Rams’ spitfire secondary.

Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib start on the outside for L.A., both underdogs in their own right. Talib grew up in a rough neighborhood in Cleveland and went on to win Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos. Peters rose from the streets of Oakland to become a first-round pick and the 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

And then there’s Nickell Robey-Coleman, an undrafted slot-corner who might be peaking at 27 years old. He’s the Ram who will forever be remembered for the pass interference call that never was in last week’s NFC Championship Game. That no-call may be bigger than we think. The universe repaying a debt it owes to a man, perhaps…

In 2010, just two weeks after Robey-Coleman signed his letter of intent to USC, he was getting ready for school when he found his mother on the bathroom floor. He called 9-1-1 and attempted to give her CPR, but she was gone. Maxine Robey passed away at age 44 from a heart condition, and Nickell’s life would never be the same.  

Her birthday was November 11. On that day in 2018, less than three months ago, Robey-Coleman received a call that his son was born a month premature via emergency c-section with numerous complications. He was in Seattle following a game with the Seahawks. Nickell Jr. passed away before Nickell Sr. made it home to meet him.

Robey-Coleman is the heart and soul of the Rams’ secondary. At 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, he’s the smallest guy on the team but the largest in spirit. He’s the hype man, the locker room DJ, the motivational speaker and the first Rams defender out of the tunnel. Now, after everything he’s been through, he's in the Super Bowl playing for a mother and a son.

The story is heartbreaking, but Robey-Coleman carries on, saying football keeps him from feeling empty. His cornerback crew is his family.

When you see No. 23 on Sunday, don’t think about the trash talk... think about the uplifting, vocal leader. Don't think about the hit he got away with… think about the hits he took, and how he kept hitting back all the way to a Super Bowl.

Justin Tangjanuary2019