About 60 miles north of the 'big city' of Mobile, where the population is not quite 195,000, sits teeny, tiny Leroy, Alabama. The population in 2010 was listed at 911 people. That number is estimated even lower now.
"My town has only 800 people," said Sammie Coates. "We don't have any red lights. There is only one gas station."
But what the town does have is plenty of pride, because they have another NFL player to boast about. Coates, who played at Auburn, was the Steelers third-round draft pick and the second person to come out of Leroy and make it to the NFL. Coates joins Emanuel King, the Cincinnati Bengals No. 1 pick in 1985, as the only other NFL player from Leroy.
"Oh yeah. I can bet you that they are talking about it there," said a smiling Coates. "I take a lot of pride in it. It's great. It gives the other kids there who are playing sports hope to get out. That's what I want to give them, hope, and let them know if you work hard anything is possible. When I go back I talk to them and tell them anything is possible. Just work hard for it.
"I never went to an NFL game in my life until…I never went to one. Nope, I never went to an NFL game in my life. I was always a fan. I never went to a college game until I got into high school. I never went to a baseball game. It's unreal coming from the situation I came from, a small town, a state without a professional sports team. It's crazy. I am blessed and thankful."
So thankful that when he was drafted, instead of waiting for his new quarterback to reach out to him, he reached out to Ben Roethlisberger, texting him and telling him how anxious he is to get to work with him.
"He is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game," said Coates. "To be a wide receiver for him is going to be real big. I am going to work my butt off for him to show him I am real excited about it. That is the goal for any wide receiver when you have a great quarterback. You want to come right in and show that you are someone he can count on. That is my goal coming in, to be a guy he can count on.
"I want to be one of the best. It starts right now. It stated when I got drafted, reaching out to him and letting him know I want to be a part of it. That was my whole point, I am going to work hard the whole way."
Rookies arrive to get their equipment fitted.
Shortly after Coates texted Roethlisberger, he got a reply.
"He said he was happy to have me be part of the family," said Coates. "That was big for him to reply back quickly. It was good for me to reach out to him, I want to work here so that is how you do it. You have to take that approach. I am new to the game so I have to show I am ready to be a part of it, ready to work for him."
Roethlisberger isn't the only one Coates is looking forward to working with. He can't wait to begin learning from Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown, and plans on following Brown's hard working example.
"I can learn a lot from him," said Coates. "He is one of the best to play the game. He always has been known as that and he is. I am going to learn a lot. I am going to get under his wing and learn from him.
"I am thankful for the opportunity and I am going to take advantage of the opportunity. I love to work, I love to compete. If I see him working hard, I have to compete. I can't watch somebody work hard and not work hard myself. If he is working hard, I have to work hard."
Coates, who started at Auburn for three seasons, had 34 receptions for 741 yards his senior year, with four touchdowns and finished his career with 1,757 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.
"I love to play this game," said Coates. "I am a very explosive guy, very fast, big play guy. I like to make big plays and score touchdowns."
He also likes being one of the newest members of Steelers Nation. Coates was in Pittsburgh for the team's Fan Blitz, and immediately felt the connection with the city and organization after being drafted.
"It's been great," said Coates. "To be a part of Steelers Nation is already great. I just watched football growing up and the Steelers were one of the teams I watched, all the great players. I watched 'The Bus' (Jerome Bettis), (Troy) Polamalu, and Ben. I watched him play and now I get to play with him. It's just crazy. I am just happy, excited, and ready to start my NFL journey.
"I am happy to be a part of the family now."