Thaddeus Coleman doesn't play 'Mr. Nice Guy' when he's on the field with the Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive tackle Thaddeus Coleman is coming off a successful showdown against Willie Jefferson of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

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Thaddeus Coleman is one of the most likeable players in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ dressing room, but there might be a few people on the outside who don’t share that view.

Although the towering offensive tackle is considered a bit of a gentle giant, his opponents get to see a different side of Coleman — one that’s not quite so friendly and easygoing.

“I tell people, because I’m a Gemini, that’s when I release the other side of me,” chuckled Coleman, whose team is preparing for a first-place showdown Friday with the host Calgary Stampeders.

“I’m real chill off the field — a quiet guy — but when I get on the field I’m literally trying to rip your head off. Guys know that. That’s why they don’t really get upset with me, because they know that’s just how I play.”

Perhaps their lack of rebuttal has something to do with the fact that Coleman is an absolute mountain of a man. He also loves working out in the gym, which might explain why he has been so durable during his time in Saskatchewan, missing just one game over the past four seasons.

When he’s not pumping iron, you’ll probably find Coleman watching action movies, playing cards, shooting pool or just shooting the breeze with teammates.

“I don’t think he has an enemy in the room — maybe in other rooms, but definitely not ours,” said Riders guard Dakota Shepley. “When there’s a 6’8 guy with arms like Arnold (Schwarzenegger) out there, he’s going to be pretty intimidating. But he really is a nice guy off the field and I respect the way he plays on the field.”

Coleman also has a fan in Riders offensive line coach Stephen Sorrells, who calls him a true technician due to his smarts and study habits.

Those are just a couple of the reasons why he’s a pleasure to coach.

“He’s a great dude,” Sorrells said. “I don’t think you’d have anybody in our locker room in the three years I’ve been here that would have a bad thing to say about him. He’s a hard worker, high-character guy. He’s going to do his job and he’s not going to cause you any headaches. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Those sentiments also apply to Coleman’s on-field performance — albeit for different reasons.

“He flips that switch on game day,” Sorrells noted. “When he gets between these white lines, he’s not going to be so easy-going. He’s going to be physical, he’s going to try to finish plays. If he can put you on your butt, he’s going to try to put you on your butt.”

At age 34, Coleman is the elder statesman of the Riders’ offensive line. His veteran savvy helped him stonewall all-star defensive end Willie Jefferson — one of the frontrunners for most outstanding defensive player — in Saturday’s 21-6 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Jefferson’s stat line? No sacks, no tackles, no forced fumbles.

Zeroes across the board.

“Whenever you can stop Willie, that’s a great accomplishment,” Coleman said. “I wouldn’t say it’s my best game or anything like that but it feels great when you stop one of the best pass rushers in the game. That’s really tough.”

Coleman should know.

After all, he went head-to-head with Jefferson in practice for five seasons — three with Saskatchewan and two with the Edmonton Eskimos. That history adds another element to the matchup, not to mention their mutual respect.

“When it’s game time, we’re going to try to kill each other,” Coleman said. “But after that, we’re still cool. We’re still friends. It’s great competition when you can play against a teammate that you won a Grey Cup with (in 2015). It’s all good fun.”

In fact, Coleman and Jefferson don’t engage in much good-natured trash talk when they meet on the field.

Coleman is more of a silent assassin — usually.

“I’m silent until you start talking to me,” he said with a smile. “I never initiate any trash talk but as soon as you get me started I’m gonna go. I’m probably going to win that battle when it comes to trash talk.

“I don’t start it but I’ll finish it.”

gharder@postmedia.com

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