Glen Coffee's single year as a 49er may qualify as one of the strangest NFL careers. The summer after a promising 2009 rookie year, in which the third-round pick out of Alabama filled in nicely for an injured Frank Gore, Coffee up and quit. God didn't want him to play football, he said in brief and guarded interviews. There's more to life than the pursuit of money.
Later today, Coffee will graduate from the army's Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga. He says he doesn't miss the NFL, and that serving in the military is a much better use of his gifts than playing professional football.
“I figured that if I'm able, the Lord's blessed me with an able body while I'm young, to get out there and get dirty.”
Coffee's sudden retirement during training camp in 2010 was as shocking to the 49ers as it was to fans, but he admitted his heart was never in it. He missed the South—he said he regretted leaving Alabama early, and immediately moved back to his home on the Florida Panhandle. But more than that, he just didn't seem to know what he wanted to do with his life, only that the NFL wasn't it. In a candid interview with the Sacramento Bee a year after his retirement, he decried the pro athlete mindset.
As far as the NFL goes, I have a hard time putting it like this because it sounds kind of harsh, but I feel like it ruins a lot of lives more than anything else. And that goes for people who have short careers in the NFL and long careers in the NFL. Because what happens is they see that as success. And money throughout your life has nothing to with your salvation in Christ. A lot of players get that money. And they chase that money, man, and I feel that they're really missing the true meaning of life. So I'm constantly afraid for the NFL and the players because kids growing up nowadays, they see that as the end all, be all. And that's just not the case.
Coffee drifted around for awhile. He started boxing. He got baptized, and spoke at churches. He was arrested for weapons possession. (Charges were later dropped.) He went back to Alabama to finish his degree. He played semi-pro football. But it was only after seeing Tears of the Sun, starring Bruce Willis as the leader of a squad of Navy SEALS, did he decide to join the military. He enlisted in February. After today's graduation, it's off to Fort Bragg, where Coffee hopes to become a Green Beret.