MU tight end Coffman proves he's a good catch

Friday, October 24, 2008 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:20 a.m. CST, Sunday, January 4, 2009
Missouri tight end Chase Coffman leaps over a player in the first quarter of the SEMO game in October of 2008.

COLUMBIA - There's nothing about them that catches the eye. Bigger than most, but hardly gargantuan. Ten fingers, none exceptionally thick or thin. On this particular day, they're hidden most of the time, tucked away deep inside the pockets of his black athletic pants.

His elbows reveal the price of their work, both brandishing matching dime-size scabs from receptions made with complete disregard for what is vertical and what is horizontal.

Saturday's game

Colorado (4-3, 1-2 Big 12)
at No. 16 Missouri (5-2, 1-2)

WHEN: 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: Memorial Stadium

RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM

TV: Fox Sport

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When senior tight end Chase Coffman raises his hands (though sometimes, it only takes one) to catch a speeding, spiraling football, they provide highlights few players in college football could duplicate. During Missouri's two-game losing streak, Coffman has been the only player whose production hasn't diminished while the Tigers have suffered losses to Oklahoma State and Texas. Rather, he's had the two best games of his career, hauling in career-highs of 11 and 12 receptions for 244 yards combined in the two games.

"A guy with his size, and his speed, and the length he has, and how he's able to handle that, and maneuver on people," quarterback Chase Daniel said. "It's just becoming old news. It's ridiculous; he's a freak."

Coffman, 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, has been an obvious mismatch for both cornerbacks and linebackers alike since his first game more than three years ago, when he hauled in the first of his school record 24 touchdowns. For Coffman, it would be hard not to be excited to face Colorado on Saturday, a team that gave up three of those touchdowns in last season's 55-10 Missouri win in Boulder.

"Oh man, for a defensive back, that's the hardest matchup you're going to get in the whole NCAA," safety Justin Garrett said. "He's more fluid, like a receiver, but he's still got all the attributes of a big, physical tight end."

Not to mention reflexes more in line with a feline than a football player.

With an array of acrobatic, one-handed catches he hadn't shown off in his first three seasons as a Tiger, anyone who thought they saw Coffman peak in 2007 was dead wrong.

Coach Gary Pinkel called his one-handed catch against Oklahoma State, made while falling backward and drawing a pass interference penalty, "Honestly, the greatest catch I've ever seen."

Although Pinkel had a front row seat for that catch, the Nevada secondary found out the hard way that Coffman's hands are good for more than just catching the ball.

Against the Wolf Pack, Coffman caught a pass in the middle of the field and proceeded to put on a stiff-arm clinic, shoving off five separate Nevada defenders before being knocked out of bounds inside the 10-yard line.

A few weeks later, Texas safety Earl Thomas learned what Garrett figured out early when Coffman ripped an interception out of Thomas' hands and took it into the burnt-orange end zone for the Tigers' second touchdown of the second half Saturday.

"You've gotta get there before he does because when he grabs it, it's his," Garrett said.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to get a head start. Chase Coffman's dad, Paul Coffman, played 11 seasons in the NFL, most with the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, and caught 42 touchdowns while being named to three Pro Bowl teams.

"Every day when I came home from work, the kids and I would all go out in the yard," Paul Coffman said. "My wife always jokes it would be 10 degrees out and I'd say, ‘Get the kids out today,'... or it'd be 105 and there'd be warnings, but I'd just call Amy and say, ‘Make sure the kids are out playing today.' It's just a lifestyle."

It's that experience that's given Chase Coffman what his father had to earn: opportunities. At Kansas State, Paul Coffman walked on and didn't even suit up a game his freshman season. Chase Coffman's freshman season? He hauled in 47 catches for four touchdowns. Paul Coffman was undrafted out of college, and had to earn a roster spot with Packers through free agency. Chase Coffman is widely considered one of the best tight ends in the nation, and he could be drafted in the early rounds of April's NFL Draft.

"Success is sometimes harder to handle than adversity. Sometimes adversity makes you tougher and makes you want it more," Paul Coffman said. "Well, Chase's whole life, people have been telling him he's going to the NFL, he's going to Division I, he's the best at this or that. Just like I didn't listen to people telling me I couldn't do it, you can't listen to people telling you you've got it made."


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Jenn Ballard October 24, 2008 | 11:43 a.m.

I really enjoyed this story. I thought the storytelling discriptions kept my attention throughout the entire article.

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