Roy Exum: He'd Rather Have Jesus

Monday, August 16, 2010
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Glen Coffee, a 23-year-old pro football player who had a $2.5 million contract and a promising career in store, walked away from the San Francisco 49ers on Friday, and none of the cynical national media knew quite what to do or say. That's because Glen, a back-up running back for the 49ers, calmly said he'd rather walk with Jesus instead of playing games anymore.

His decision, he told the shocked reporters who follow the team, was one that he'd "been wrestling with a long time," and those who know the classy kid who accepted the Lord as his Savior during his junior year at the University of Alabama say he'll not change his mind.

"I feel like it's God’s will," Mr. Coffee said. "It's something that I really I shouldn't have entered the NFL in the first place. I don't know what call God has for my life, but it wasn't football. I'll be happier, not necessarily because I'm without football, but because I'm letting Him do his work.

"Whether it was leaving football or leaving something else, another job, it doesn't matter. I'll be happy because I'm following His will," he added, even though he isn't sure what path God wants him to take. "I'm going back to school to finish my degree (he lacks only six hours) and I'll probably get a Master's degree, too. God will let me know what's next."

Mr. Coffey was the leading rusher on Alabama's 2008 team, running for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns on a team that finished 12-2. He skipped his last year of eligibility at Alabama, instead signing with the 49ers when he was picked in the third round. During last year's rookie season, he was the team's number two runner behind Frank Gore, and ended his first season with 226 yards and one touchdown.

Mr. Coffey isn't surprised that everybody else is quite surprised. He came into camp in the best shape of his life. He had even gained 10 pounds of muscle. Once there, he has been impressive the first couple of weeks. "A lot of people aren't going to understand and realize because they don't have the wisdom to understand," he said.

"Their eyes aren't open like mine are open. True happiness is glorifying God and glorifying Christ. That's what true happiness is... And for me, that wasn't the NFL. That wasn't where I needed to be. It's giving in to his will, man. I feel like I was wasting the organization's time, as far as the Niners," he explained.

"I felt like I was wasting my time," he added. "I should have never entered the league, and I'm sorry I had to (quit) in the middle of camp and leave my teammates like that. But it was something that I felt like I needed to do."

To Mike Singletary, the 49ers head coach, the player's decision was disappointing, but said he wouldn't try to talk him out of it. "My initial reaction was, 'Glen, are you sure about this?' He said, 'Yes, sir, I've given it a lot of thought,' and I said, 'OK. If that's where you are, then I respect that, and I appreciate your honesty.

"I appreciate him not coming out here and going through the motions,” said the San Francisco coach. “He said his heart isn't in it. It's his decision. He is a man, and the last thing that I'm going to do is disrespect him and try to drag something out.

"I told him I appreciate the character that you have, to come and let us know so that we can move forward and not put us in a situation where we have to go scramble and do something that we didn't want to do."

Some skeptics said over the weekend that Coffee would have second thoughts, but Glen said it's done. "No, man. I've already told Christ it's time to go. I've already rung the bell. That's not going to happen."

There was also a rumor that he'd taken a harder-than-normal hit during Singletary's tough practices. "I was reading on the Internet and some reporter said I made the decision because I got blown up in a blocking drill.

“Come on, man! Give me more credit than that! But I've got to expect that when I do something so unexpectedly. No, there were no personal issues. But I really am sorry that I put the 49ers in this situation. I should have handled it a lot differently."

Coffey's teammates were saddened. One even said, "I just feel like I've lost a brother." That confirmed the Crimson Tide star was highly-respected and having good practices before making his decision. What's more, several cited Coffey’s tireless work ethic and the fact he was constantly working out in the off-season.

"Whatever you do, you've got to do it to glorify Christ. You've got to do it 100 percent. Even though my head was sort of me holding onto the sport, I tried to get all the way into it."

That didn't work. Now he'll follow Jesus. "Now I am happy," he said.

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