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Former grid star longs for return to the Valley

| Saturday, Dec. 27, 2003

CANTON, OHIO - When Bryan Coles left Monessen in 1992 for the University of Akron, the multi-sport athlete wondered what it would be like to be a professional athlete.

While his collegiate career did not lead to a professional one, it did land him a close friendship with one of the NFL's brightest stars.

As a freshman football player at Akron, Coles met another freshman from the Pittsburgh area, Jason Taylor. Taylor graduate from Woodland Hills High School.

"We both said we had heard of each other through the newspapers in high school, and we hit it off really fast," Coles said. "We were roommates."

Coles, 29, and Taylor remained close through their four years at Akron and beyond. So close that their families visit each other each year. They also make annual trips to Las Vegas.

"He comes up to Canton once, and we go to his home in Miami every year," said Coles.

In fact, the Monessen native said his family just returned from Miami, where they got to watch the Dolphins' star defensive end play Monday night against Philadelphia.

"We were there for six days," Coles said. "Jason got us game tickets and players' lot passes.

"The weather was in the 70s and 80s every day. It was nice to get out of the cold for a while."

Coles also went to Tennessee to see the Miami-Tennessee game.

"I go to see a lot of his games," he said of Taylor. "It's cool to know someone who is in the league. When we were in college, I never thought he would be where he is now."

While Coles was not able to follow his college friend into the NFL, he has found success in his life.

He works for Nationwide Insurance in Canton, just five minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I work in the claims department," he said. "I've been here almost three years now."

Since he left Monessen for college, Coles has never returned other than to visit his parents.

"It's unbelievable to think that I've been out of high school for over 10 years now," he said.

"We're looking to come back home sometime, but it is really hard to find work in what I do back there. I'd have to change companies, and I don't want to do that right now."

Now married, Coles and his wife, Nicole, have two daughters, Brynn, 2, and Kylee, 9 months.

He says he would like to one day return to athletics, but as a coach rather than a player.

"I have been offered a few coaching jobs in Ohio, but I don't want to coach here," he said.

"I'd rather come back to the Valley and coach. I think it would be really cool to coach high school football or baseball.

"It would be great to teach kids something that I know really well and love."

Like many Monessen athletes before and after him, Coles longs to return to his alma mater.

"I'd love to coach at Monessen, although I don't know too many coaches that they have now," he said. "It would just be nice to come back and give back."

Looking back on his career at Akron, Coles said that even though the Zips "lost a lot of games," it was a great experience for him.

"I learned a lot about life, accountability and the game," he said. "It was great to play Division I football and see how much talent there really is out there."

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