COLUMBIA — After taking a pass in the right flat and breaking two poorly aimed arm tackles by Colorado defenders, tight end Chase Coffman saved his best escape for last. With a vertical leap usually seen only in wide receivers, Coffman, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall and 245 pounds, hopped over the defender like a frog to a lily pad. Barely keeping his balance, he then strutted into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown, his second of the game.
Coffman doesn’t plan to hurdle his competition. He just does it so he won’t get hurt.
“People kept trying to dive at my knees, so one day I just decided to jump over them,” Coffman said.
In his three seasons in the Tigers’ program, tight end Chase Coffman has made a habit of jumping over defenders like a pile of hot coals.
Watching Coffman’s feat is like seeing a seven-footer squeeze into a compact sports car, it’s not something you see all the time. The bigger kinds of receivers, like fellow MU tight end Martin Rucker, usually gain extra yards by lowering their shoulder and moving a pile. But Coffman has made the maneuver his own way of moving the chains.
The first time he used the hurdle was during Coffman’s freshman year in a road game against Oklahoma State in 2005. With a defender looking to take out Coffman’s legs from below, Coffman leapt over him to keep moving forward. Coffman sprung so high that the head of the Oklahoma State player was just below Coffman’s waist at the peak of the jump.
You can see the height in a photo of the jump that was shown to Paul Coffman, Chase’s father and a former All-Pro tight end for the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The image evoked memories of his own playing days.
“Someone sent a picture of it to me, and it’s scary how much it looks like the same person,” Paul Coffman said.
As it turns out, Chase Coffman had watched tapes of his dad from his time in college and the NFL. The elder Coffman, a former high school hurdler, didn’t use the maneuver as often as his son does, but Chase obviously saw it enough that the move made an impression on him.
MU coach Gary Pinkel, a former tight end, appreciates the ability it takes to pull off the move.
“He’s unbelievable,” Pinkel said. “I played tight end in college and with some of the stuff he does, he makes me think I should have played guard.”
Other teams are taking notice as well. Coffman has made the leap over some hapless defender in all but one game, and all of the attempts were successful — except for one.
A road game against Oklahoma last month not only brought about the Tigers’ first, and only, loss of the season, but it was the first time Coffman’s hurdle was foiled. Coffman’s body folded like an accordion from the impact of two Sooners defenders.
“I didn’t really time it right, and they caught me from underneath and I fell,” Coffman said.
Since then, however, when the hurdle succeeds, the Tigers succeed.
Coffman’s statistics in the Tigers’ 55-10 victory at Colorado were staggering. He hauled in five catches for 55 yards and three touchdowns. But it was that second touchdown that brought many to their feet. Coffman’s leaps have drawn applause from most of his teammates and coaches. But one, tight end coach Bruce Walker, still likes to poke fun at Coffman’s hurdle.
“I’m just glad that he did it and finally landed on his feet,” Walker said.