There are a handful of “pro football factory” collegiate programs out there who funnel talented young men into the NFL every year like clockwork. One school that doesn’t fit that mold is the University of Rhode Island. But the NFL history books are full of stories of small school players making a big impact at the next level. Guys like Jerry Rice, Kurt Warner, and Steve McNair all came out of programs that weren’t known for cranking out NFL talent.
Maybe Isaiah Coulter is the next name to join the list of small school players who make a big splash in the professional ranks.
Born on September 18th, 1998, the 6’2”, 198 lb. linebacker turned receiver provides a big target for Houston Texans franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. Coulter’s 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine puts him in good company for wideouts his size. Rounding out his measurables, Coulter had a 36” vertical, 121” broad jump, a 7.28 second cone drill, and a 4.62 20 yard shuttle.
How do those numbers translate to the field? In his final (junior) year at Rhode Island, Coulter caught 72 passes for 1,039 yards and 8 touchdowns in only 11 starts. He started 11 games as a true freshman and again as a sophomore. Coulter capped off his collegiate career with seven (7) 100-yard games.
How did he get on the Texans’ radar? Well, when Rhode Island played Brown University, Bill O’Brien’s alma matter, Coulter torched O’Brien’s former school for 171 yards on 12 catches. Rhode Island’s head coach, Jim Fleming, was on the Brown staff as tight ends coach during O’Brien’s days with the program as well.
With the limited ability for Coulter to learn Houston’s offense in hands-on practice due to the pandemic, he’ll face an uphill battle to jump from Rhode Island to the big leagues. His ability to get open, show his number to the quarterback, and use angles to outrun opponents with his solid football speed mean Coulter offers some great potential, particularly for a player taken in the fifth round.
Admittedly, trying to fight his way onto the field among the likes of Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Will Fuller V in front of him might be tough. But with the injury histories of Cooks and Fuller V, odds are Coulter could see the field this season, early and often even, if he can prove to new Houston offensive coordinator Tim Kelly he’s a better option than other backup receivers like Keke Coutee, DeAndre Carter, Chad Hansen and Steven Mitchell Jr.
Usually small school players drafted into the NFL come with an always present feeling of having something to prove. Coulter is no different.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m ready to just come in and help any way I can. I know I’m coming from a smaller school and all. I’m just ready to play. I feel like once you get on that level, you’ve got to prove yourself at that point. So, I’m just trying to prove myself and put my best foot forward.”
If he can leverage that chip to overcome the odds, Coulter just might have a great career ahead of him.
Is Coulter a solid starter in the making? Depth player? Roster cut-down casualty? Practice squadder? Give us your gut feeling in the comments box.