SANTA CLARA — Tevin Coleman has come a long way from fighting for his life while weighing three-and-a-half pounds.
Coleman was born several months early, and his parents feared for his life, but he persevered. It was a very challenging journey, but it has become rewarding, especially as Coleman, now 26, again has found success on his second NFL team.
“I was born three months early,” Coleman said. “I was premature. I had a 20 percent chance of living. So I was just a fighter. I fought through it, and I’m here now, so I’m real blessed by God to be here, to be playing football, to be doing what I do.
“It was definitely hard for them growing up, but they’re real proud of me, they’re really happy that I’m in this position. They’re really happy that I’m here, they’re really happy that … yeah.”
Coleman was a key part of the 49ers' dominating offense in their 27-10 divisional-round playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday. The 49ers ran the ball 47 times against a Vikings defense that previously had been stout on the ground. Coleman carried the ball a season-high 22 times for 105 yards, matching a season-high yardage mark that he hit in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers.
Coach Kyle Shanahan’s plan was to demoralize the Vikings defense by running it down their throats, and Coleman was ready for the challenge.
“Kyle said we were going to run the ball more than 30 times, so I definitely had that in my head,” Coleman said. “I had that mindset, and that’s what we did. I woke up with the mindset we got to go. Win or we go home. We practiced hard, and we went out there and we did our jobs.”
The success the 49ers had on the ground was not without challenges. Coleman and the other running backs just kept chipping away against the Vikings' defense, eventually racking up 186 rushing yards.
“They are a very good run defense, and they stay in their gaps and they play laterally a lot,” Coleman said. “We just had to stick with the run and keep hitting it, getting 4 yards, 5 yards, 7 [yards]. It was just one of those games where we had to keep running the ball to break those big runs.”
Coleman noted that Shanahan’s plan worked, seeing exasperation build up on the other side of the line of scrimmage as the game progressed.
“They were really frustrated and things like that,” Coleman said. “That’s why Kyle wanted to stick to the run, because we was definitely doing good with that. You could just see it in their body language and them trying to get their calls in.”
Coleman has had limited carries in the second half of the season because of Raheem Mostert's emergence. That doesn’t bother the former Atlanta Falcons running back. He knows they each will get their chance, and ultimately, all that counts is the win.
“It really don’t matter,” Coleman said. “Anybody who gets in there is going to do their job, you know what I’m saying? The mentality of the team is, ‘Next man up.' "