Glen Coffee’s football comeback, less than a year after leaving the game, furthers the mystery surrounding his life and career.
The 24-year-old Coffee, a former standout running back at Alabama, plays for the Premier South Football League’s Northwest Florida Falcons, a semi-pro outfit based in his hometown of Fort Walton Beach, FL.
In August 2010, Coffee abruptly retired from the San Francisco 49ers, for whom he played just one season. The Niners drafted him in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft.
Coffee said that God had a bigger, better plan for him, one that didn’t include the NFL. He hinted that he was interested in the ministry, saying “that will come to me” in a 2010 interview with the Mobile Press-Register.
(It should be mentioned that he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in October 2010, when he was pulled over for speeding [Update: The gun charge was dropped after it was ruled the gun was "securely encased."])
More than anything, though, he didn’t think he belonged in pro football.
“I feel like it’s His will,” Coffee told the Mobile Press-Register. “It’s something that I really felt like 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.”
However, Coffee’s play during Alabama’s 2008 season made it seem like he was born to play the sport. He rushed for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns, lifting the Crimson Tide (12-2) to the SEC title game for the first time in nine years.
Coffee skipped his senior season, moving on to the NFL, where he played behind 49ers star Frank Gore. But it turns out he regrets the decision to leave Tuscaloosa.
“I would have liked to have stayed with my teammates, because I left there for the wrong reasons,” he told the Press-Register.
“I left because I was done with football. It’s crazy if you think about it. You leave football to go to another level of football, and you think you’re going to be happier. Money or no money, that wasn’t the case.”
Coffee missed out on the Tide’s 2009 national championship season and left without his degree. While he’ll never earn a college title, Coffee’s working toward that diploma by taking online classes at Alabama.
But the specific nature of his departure from the NFL remains a mystery. Coffee told the Northwest Florida Daily News recently that he would only discuss his return to football, not his reasons for leaving it.
Speaking in generalities, he told the newspaper that he loves playing football, but doesn’t care for the life of a professional football player.
“A lot of people think that because I quit, I don’t like football or I have something against it,” Coffee said. “It’s not like that. As a recreational sport, I still dig it. It’s just not what I wanted to do with my life.”
So, is he making a move toward the ministry?
It wasn’t covered in the story but it’s clear he’s enjoying being back on the pulpit of America’s new national pastime. This time, Coffee will play linebacker and safety and be used some as a return man for the semi-pro Falcons.
It seems Coffee’s search for a more modest life has come true. He took the field in his debut earlier this month at Florida’s Shalimar Elementary School – not exactly Bryant-Denny Stadium. His team is currently 1-1 according to the web site semiprofootball.org, but little other information is available.
Of course, the irony is that Coffee now finds himself on a roster full of players that would do anything to make the NFL while Coffee left the bright lights of the NFL for this.
“I figured it would just be another fun thing to do,” Coffee said.
For Coffee, it appears that’s all football has ever been.