Cancer robbed Shon Coleman of three football seasons, but it couldn’t strip him of his will to persevere.

So when Coleman encountered adversity last year during his rookie season with the Browns, he had no doubt he would overcome it. The 6-foot-5½, 310-pound offensive lineman knew he had endured much worse.

Seven years after Coleman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, he has secured a starting job in the NFL. His dream was delayed last season while working his way back from knee surgery, but now the third-round draft pick from Auburn University sits atop the depth chart at right tackle with no one threatening to usurp him before the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Showing people that I can get through it, get to where I want to go, even with the obstacles that were put in front of me, it’s an inspiration to a lot of other people that are going through things,” Coleman told the Beacon Journal after a recent practice.

Coleman learned he had leukemia in March 2010, about six weeks after he signed with Auburn as a five-star recruit. He immediately began undergoing chemotherapy at world-renowned St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in his hometown of Memphis.

After he enrolled at Auburn in January 2011, relatives, mainly his grandmother, would drive once a week to pick him up from campus in east Alabama, take him to St. Jude’s for treatment and then back to school less than 24 hours later. The drive lasts nearly six hours each way.

“That’s what grandmothers do,” Coleman said. “They make sacrifices.”

Coleman had treatment for 2½ years, missing the 2010-12 seasons, the last of which he redshirted to work himself into shape. He played in eight games as a backup during the 2013 season and started 25 games at left tackle from 2014-15.

On April 29, 2016, Coleman held his draft watch party at St. Jude’s when the Browns selected him 76th overall.

Despite some initial optimism Coleman could immediately start, he seldom played last season, appearing in seven games off the bench. He suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee in November 2015, missed one game, then played through the injury and had surgery after the season.

Coleman, 25, wasn’t fully recovered when he joined the Browns and missed organized team activities as a rookie. He fell behind and never really caught up.

“I wouldn’t say I was ready at all at the start of training camp last year, but it was a whole process just trying to get better every week,” Coleman said. “The coaches knew that. They definitely were being patient with me, and they saw me grow.”

Knowing they had Coleman and Cameron Erving ready to compete for a job, the Browns let last season’s starting right tackle, Austin Pasztor, leave as a free agent.

Coleman entered training camp as the favorite and never lost ground. Then Erving, a 2015 first-round pick, suffered a calf injury in practice Aug. 15 and has been sidelined since.

Battling cancer taught Coleman to be patient and never take an opportunity for granted. He approached his quest to win a starting job with those lessons in mind.

“I live by that every day,” Coleman said. “It’s not just football. Any opportunity that’s thrown at me, I try to use it to my advantage and take it and run with it. That’s something I’m trying to do now. I’ve got an opportunity to play a lot this year, and I’m just trying to go out there and show I belong on the field.”

As a starter in the first two preseason games, a 20-14 win over the New Orleans Saints and a 10-6 victory over the New York Giants, Coleman had respectable outings.

“I’m impressed with Shon every day,” Browns 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “... I’ve been really proud of him. I’ve been working with him, and he’s really taken a nice step. He came from a system in college that had basically no pro concepts, technique or scheme-wise, so for him, it was almost like taking a high school player and putting him into a pro scheme. He’s really picked it up quickly.”

Coleman said he received a shot of confidence by facing Giants two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul several times in the second exhibition game. Pierre-Paul had a half-sack, but it happened when Coleman blocked down on a defensive tackle and left guard John Greco pulled and attempted to stop Pierre-Paul as he sprinted into the backfield.

“The thing I like about [Coleman] is he comes in every day and he is working at it,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He is one of our tough guys. We like him. He battled JPP. JPP is a good player, one of the best in the league, and he held his own a little bit.”

Although Coleman readily points out he has a long way to go, he also has come a long way since fighting for his life and surviving.

“When you go through something like that, you want to keep chugging,” he said. “You’re more motivated to be able to shine and do what you’ve got to do to be the best.”

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.