From Chase, Kansas, Paul Coffman had an offer from Coffeyville Community College to go and play football. He instead chose to attend Kansas State, walking on to try to fulfill his dream of becoming a Wildcat college football player.
“My grandpa went to K-State and my dad went to K-State, so I knew from a young age that I would more than likely go to K-State,” Coffman said. “But the reason that I chose to walk on was because in high school, I played against someone from Little River High School and his name was Perry Viers. He made the roster and I just thought to myself, if Perry Viers can make the roster, then so can I. He was kind of my driving force behind wanting to try out and make the team. It’s kind of like a living motivation sort of situation.”
Coffman was soon told he had made the team and appeared in all 11 games at tight end his freshman year. Coffman appeared in every game throughout his four years at K-State, and that’s when he knew that he had a shot at going to the big leagues.
“I went to a Chiefs preseason game against the Vikings with my roommate Gary Spani. While I was at the game, I saw a tight end for the Vikings named Stu Voigt. Stu was another one of those living motivation situations,” Coffman said. “Stu wasn’t much bigger than I was, and I just knew that if he could make the league, then so could I.”
After Coffman wasn’t selected in the 1978 draft, Green Bay scouts gave him a chance at what he had been working toward his whole life.
“I was never supposed to get a call from the Packers. Remember that this is a time before the draft combine was a thing, and whenever I didn’t get drafted, I was getting ready to go back home and start working in the ag business,” Coffman said. “But it just so happened that the scout for Green Bay didn’t scout any tight ends, so they only had two for training camp. So I was one of the guys they gave a call to. I packed up everything I had and went to Green Bay to try and make the team.”
Coffman had to overcome three other potential tight-end candidates to make the team. Coffman raced to finish every sprint first and impress in every workout.
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“I showed up at camp from the call, and there were four other tight ends there. I knew that they would only keep two of us, so I was in for the fight of my life to stay on the team,” Coffman said. “We all came in every day and worked as hard as we possibly could, and we never wanted to sit out with an injury, so if we were injured, we would still show up to practice every day.”
On the last day of training camp, Coffman entered the locker room to see staff cleaning out the other three players’ lockers. He had made it to the league.
Though he made the roster, the problems that come along with being in the NFL were only beginning. Off the field, Coffman noticed how his finances suddenly changed.
“The reason a lot of people struggle when they make it pro is because they’re not the big shot anymore. All of my kids play D1 sports, and my wife tells them all the time, ‘Sports are what you do, they’re not what you are,’ and that’s something that I feel like gets mixed around,” Coffman said. “The second thing that’s becoming more and more of an issue is financials. When I played, most people were 20 or 21 finally getting some money, and at that age, you’re still stupid with your money but not as bad as an 18 or 19-year-old would be. I know I did some dumb stuff when I was that age, but in today’s day and age, it’s scary to see what might happen.”
On the field, Coffman had to play against the best-of-the-best of his day, including New York Giant and Hall of Fame defensive end Lawrence Taylor.
“The craziest thing is that I had to block Lawrence Taylor,” Coffman said. “He was pound-for-pound the best football player on the field, and he knew that he would come at you every play, full speed and everything. He never took a play off, and I knew that if I took a play off, he would eat my lunch and blow up the play.”
After football came to an end, Coffman retired and started working with one of his close friends selling janitorial supplies.
“He gave me a call and asked me to come work for him, and I was hesitant about it, and he explained that what people do with these supplies is this: ‘They buy it to flush it down the toilet and then they buy more,’ which was really funny to me, but I started working for him and that’s where I’ve worked for the last 32 years,” Coffman said. “I’ve enjoyed it because I don’t have to wear a suit to work every day, I just dress casually and I enjoy that.”
Like many from small-town Kansas, Coffman continues to put his faith first in everything he does.
“It’s crazy when people send me cards still, I always sign them with my favorite Bible verse, and it is ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,'” Coffman said. “I’ve just found that when I put my trust in God and work as hard as I can in something, that whether it works out like I wanted it to or not, I just know that he is in control. Just like when people ask me what my biggest accomplishment is, I just tell them that I’ve been married to one woman for 36 years, I have four kids who all played Division I sports and still received their college degrees and are all productive citizens of society. So rather than football or sports, be the proudest of your marriage or your kids.”