Chase Coffman knew his pro football career had come to an end when no team called for his services last year. At 31, the time had come for him to decide what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
It could be coaching, although he resisted the idea at first.
“I’ve thought about it, but I’ve always said, ‘no no no, it’s not going to be me.’” Coffman said. “I’m still kind of on the fence long-termwise.”
Coffman is giving coaching a test run this fall at Raymore-Peculiar, where he starred as an all-state tight end before going on to a successful career at Missouri and eight seasons in the NFL. He’s coaching the receivers for Tom Kruse, the same head coach Coffman played for with the Panthers.
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“He’s going to be very good,” Kruse said. “If this is something he truly wants to do down the road he’s going to be really, really good at it. Right now we’re just happy that he’s with us.”
As he worked out and waited for another chance in the NFL last season, Coffman hung out with the team as a volunteer assistant coach. When Kruse needed a receivers coach after Trent Gatzemeyer left for a job in his native Georgia, Coffman was Kruse’s top choice for the job.
“I went to him soon as the opening took place,” Kruse said. “I knew he would be a great fit and wanted him to think about it.”
And as it turned out, Coffman was ready to give coaching a serious try.
“Since I had been around and they knew I had some football knowledge, they offered me the job,” Coffman said. “It’s something awesome I can give back to these guys and the community I’m part of. And I enjoy football still.”
Ray-Pec always remained special for Coffman all through his days at Mizzou and in the NFL. It’s always been home since his father, former Green Bay and Chiefs tight end Paul Coffman, moved his family into the area when Chase was little.
During his senior year at Ray-Pec, Coffman and his brother Carson, who went on to start at quarterback at Kansas State, led the Panthers to a 13-0 record and the 2004 Class 5 state championship. He won the 2004 Simone Award as the Kansas City area’s top football player.
The success continued at Missouri, where Coffman won the 2008 John Mackey Award as college football’s best tight end his senior year. He left as the Tigers’ career leader in catches (247) and touchdown catches (30) and finished with 2,659 receiving yards. In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals took Coffman in the third round with the 98th overall pick.
Coffman didn’t play in 2009 after an ankle injury landed him on the injured reserve list. He played six games for the Bengals in 2010 and was cut from their practice squad in 2011.
That would be the beginning of an NFL odyssey that also included stops in Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Tennessee, Seattle and Indianapolis. His most productive season came with the Titans in 2013, when he played 13 games and made six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
When the Colts released Coffman in November 2016, he had an NFL career total of 18 catches for 177 yards and two TDs.
And no regrets.
“I always told myself once I’m not on a team for a full season that’s probably time to give it up,” Coffman said. “I was able to play in eight different seasons and had a very good run. Not the run that I would have planned for myself, but I was very blessed to get as much in as I did.”
While Coffman is resigned to the end of his NFL career, he isn’t resigned to leaving football behind. He’s enjoyed being a part of the Panthers again even if he’s still adapting to being a coach instead of a player. Relating to kids who don’t have nearly the same expertise that he has can sometimes be a challenge, but Kruse has seen Coffman getting through to them.
Being a former pro and college star does help in that regard.
“He’s exactly what we thought he would be,” Kruse said. “He knows what it takes to get to a certain level. Our receivers and tight ends are blessed to have that guy coaching them.”
“I think we’ve got a lot of good guys,” Coffman said. “For me to be a part of this and for them to accept me back in and let me try to help out in any way I can is a great experience for me and a great opportunity.”
A great opportunity, and perhaps a start down his next career path.
“Still kind of figuring that out, and maybe it is this,” Coffman said. “I’ve started it, I’m committed to it and we’ll just keep taking it one step at a time.”