From his youth in central Florida to his college career at USC, Nickell Robey-Coleman dreamed of making a mark on NFL history.
The veteran defensive back never imagined his mark might end up being a rule change that exists mostly because officials in the last NFC Championship game failed to flag him for committing pass interference at an extraordinarily inopportune time.
With his Los Angeles Rams (1-0) preparing for a rematch against the New Orleans Saints (1-0) on Sunday, Robey-Coleman is on a quest to become synonymous with something other than his unpunished mistake against Tommylee Lewis late in regulation at the Superdome.
Robey-Coleman doesn’t shy away from the notoriety that has made him exponentially more famous than his steady play for the Bills and the Rams during his seven-season NFL career.
He has learned to laugh at his awkward fortune — but he also wouldn’t mind moving on whenever everyone else is ready.
“People always joke about it with me,” Robey-Coleman said Wednesday. “It’s fun and cool, but now I’ve got a new season, a new start. … Didn’t expect it to get that much pub, but it is what it is.”
Robey-Coleman estimates he has watched the replay “at least 4,000 or 5,000 times” since January.
For anyone who somehow missed it: The Saints had a third-and-10 from the Los Angeles 13 with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter of a tied game, and the Rams had just one timeout left. Drew Brees spotted Lewis coming free for a potential first-down catch, but so did Robey-Coleman.
Instead of going for an interception, Robey-Coleman delivered an early helmet-to-helmet hit that sent the wideout tumbling to the ground. A flag would have put New Orleans in position to score go-ahead points with almost no time left on the clock — but the officials didn’t throw it, and the play wasn’t reviewable on replay.
New Orleans kicked a field goal, but left enough time for Jared Goff to drive the Rams for a tying field goal of their own. After Brees threw an interception in overtime, Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal sent the Rams to the Super Bowl.
Robey-Coleman has always acknowledged he got away with pass interference, even saying it moments after the Rams’ 26-23 victory.
“Never disputed it,” he said. “I’m on record. Told it how it was from the time that it happened until now. I never went against what I said. Just was clear and honest.”