(Photo: AP Photo / Marcio Sanchez, File)
Former San Francisco 49ers running back Glen Coffee spoke openly Tuesday about his recent decision to retire from the NFL at the age of 23, adding more light to news that surprised even his own family.
“I didn’t consult with anybody. It was totally between me and Jesus,” Coffee said during an interview with WJOX 94.5 FM, an ESPN affiliate in Alabama, where Coffee intends to resume his studies.
Though his announcement last Friday came suddenly, the former University of Alabama running back said the thought entered his head when he was still playing college ball.
“I had found Christ my junior year at ‘Bama. When I found Him, football was no longer my dream,” he explained.
But Coffee continued to play, because it was something he had done for most of his life – and done well.
In his junior year of college ball, Coffee ran for 1,383 yards and ten touchdowns, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Coffee was named to the Associated Press All-SEC first team and was picked in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft after deciding to forgo his senior year.
Before he told 49ers head coach Mike Singletary of his intention to retire Friday, Coffee had been competing for the No. 2 spot behind Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore.
As set as his life appeared, however, Coffee said Tuesday that his heart was always in turmoil.
So while some might argue that he would have had a bigger platform to spread his faith if he was an NFL player, Coffee contends that he wouldn’t have been able to.
“I can’t do what I want to do as far as spreading the gospel and ministry if my heart is not in peace,” he said during Tuesday’s roundtable interview. “I really felt like for me to do what I need to do and for me to answer my calling, I needed to be outside of football. If you’re not at peace yourself, it’s hard to minister to others.”
With arguably the toughest decision now made, Coffee intends to finish the two classes he had left at the University of Alabama. Afterward, Coffee might go for his masters though his current focus is only on his two remaining classes.
As far as ministry, Coffee said he has a couple of speaking engagements and he is considering full-time ministry.
But Coffee said he feels full-time ministry is something that has to come to a person.
“It’s not something that you can plan out like, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ Right now, I’m going to let it come to me,” he said.
As for a possible return to a career in football, Coffee pretty much ruled out the possibility, saying that there is “no turning back.”
“Like I said, I’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of people out there who need to be saved, who need to get to Heaven. It’s going to be a tough task. I think the football is done for me,” he concluded.
With Coffee out, 49ers Coach Singletary suggested Friday that running back Anthony Dixon was most likely to fill in Coffee's spot. Veteran Michael Robinson is also in the running.
Coffee’s announcement was made just days before the 49ers' first preseason game of the year and less than a month before the regular season was set to begin.