One of the more intriguing players at rookie camp with the Edmonton Elks is American receiver Sammie Coates.
The 30-year-old was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft after a productive collegiate career at Auburn University. The native of Leroy, Ala. spent two years in black and yellow before stops in Cleveland, Houston, and Kansas City.
Coates signed with the Elks in February after having been out of football for three years. He is now looking to revive his career in Edmonton for reasons that pertain to his family.
“I have a five-year-old son and I always wanted my son to see me play football and I think this gives him a chance to watch me play,” Coates told the media in Edmonton.
Coates last played in the NFL with the Houston Texans in 2018 before his son was old enough to understand the game. He caught one pass for 12 yards while suiting up for 12 games with the franchise before he was released in December of that year. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent in 2019 but was released by the team in May before ever playing a game.
His most recent professional action came in the 2020 iteration of the XFL. After being selected in the third round of the XFL Draft, Coates played four games for the Houston Roughnecks, catching six passes for 61 yards before the league closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been training a lot (since last playing in 2020). I work out twice a day. That’s always been something I love to do,” Coates said.
According to his head coach, Coates needs to adjust the amount of space receivers need to cover on the CFL’s wide field.
“The running has been a lot for him,” said Chris Jones. “He told me, ‘You should have emailed me and told me I need to run more.’ Until you get into the CFL, practice in the CFL or play a game, you don’t know really what to expect.”
“Lot of running,” Coates said with a smile when asked what stuck out to him about his first CFL practices. “It’s a lot more competitive because you got a lot more going on. You have to pay close attention to what you’re doing because there’s a lot of moving parts.”
The Auburn alum’s most productive year came with the Steelers in 2016 when he caught 21 passes for 435 yards and two touchdowns while helping Pittsburgh qualify for the AFC Championship Game.
“I’ve been in the game for so long, learning from some of the best. Big Ben (Roethlisberger), A.B. (Antonio Brown), Le’Veon Bell,” Coates said. “I’ve been around guys that worked like they worked. It teaches you a lot. You learn a lot from those guys.”
“He’s been in some big-time locker rooms around some big-time players,” said Jones. “Now it’s a matter of coming and doing all the right things here.”
This is not the six-foot-two, 215-pound pass catcher’s first foray into the CFL. Coates signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2021 to reunite with former Auburn teammate Nick Marshall. Marshall was Coates’ quarterback for their final two collegiate seasons with the Tigers.
Coates never reported to the Riders and spent two years on the team’s suspended list.
“I knew about it (the CFL). I knew a lot of guys that I played with came out here. Nick Marshall’s out here. Jonathon Mincy played out here. Jonathan Rose played out here. A lot of guys that played with me at Auburn played out here for a while so I knew about it. I just didn’t know all the rules and how the game works until I got here.”
Coates is part of a logjam of talented receivers in Edmonton. Dillon Mitchell returns after a breakout 2022 campaign and the team invested heavily in the position, signing both Eugene Lewis and Steven Dunbar Jr. to lucrative contracts in free agency. Dunbar signed a two-year deal with the Elks that will pay him $200,000 annually, while Lewis signed a one-year pact worth $320,000.
The team also has veteran Manny Arceneaux returning for his second season in Edmonton as well as former Saskatchewan Roughriders’ speedster Kyran Moore, who signed with the Elks in February.
“You got to play fast. That’s one of the things you got to get used to is the speed of the game,” said Coates. “Once you get that down pat, get your legs in shape, you can be dominant if you’re a good player.”