BORN: March 29, 1956 (St. Louis, Mo.)
GRADUATED: Chase High school, 1974; Kansas State University, 1981
Asked in 2014 during an interview with the Green Bay Packers about what made the Chase, Kansas, native Paul Coffman a success, his answer was simple — he was in the right place at the right time.
Coffman’s answer is very humble for an 11-year veteran of the National Football League and speaks volumes about Coffman’s character.
However, his answer wasn’t entirely correct.
Coffman’s success was built on a foundation of character and it saw him go from an unheard of college walk-on to a Pro Bowl NFL player.
Raised in Chase, the foundation of Coffman’s character was laid at an early age. In the summer while in high school, if Coffman wasn’t on a tractor helping on the family farm, you could find him in the oil patch working to help his family any way he could. Those life lessons of hard work and doing whatever it took to succeed, both on-and-off the field, would become a trademark of Paul Coffman.
As a walk-on at Kansas State University in 1974, Coffman arrived in Manhattan during one of the darkest times in the program’s history. Throughout his time in Manhattan, the Wildcats record was 6-27.
The team struggles wore on players, but not on Coffman who worked every day to be the best player he could possibly be. That hard work paid dividends on the playing field as Coffman was a three-year letterman and led the team in scoring in 1977 and in the classroom as he was named to the All-Big 8 Academic team the same year.
Following his senior season, Coffman was invited to a tryout on campus by the Green Bay Packers alongside his roommate and 2004 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Gary Spani. Coffman’s performance led to an invite to the Green Bay Packers fall camp in 1978. He was extended an offer by the team as an undrafted free agent.
Once in camp, Coffman’s character took over. Despite being listed last on the depth chart at tight end entering camp by Packer coach Bart Starr, Coffman made the team in 1978 and became the full-time starter at tight end by his second season in the league.
Teaming up with Green Bay Packers quarterback and 1997 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Lynn Dickey, Coffman’s time to shine had finally come. In 1979, as a second year player, Coffman scored four touchdowns, and led the team with 56 receptions for 711 yards. He also began a streak in 1979 that saw him catch a pass in 50 straight games for the Packers.
In 1982, Coffman was named to his first NFL Pro Bowl despite missing a portion of the season due to a labor strike. The following year in 1983, he had arguably his best year as professional on his way to another Pro Bowl as he compiled a career high with 11 touchdowns and 814 yards. The next season in 1984, he was once again named to the Pro Bowl with nine touchdowns and 562 yards.
Coffman played for the Packers a total of eight seasons before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1986, where he played two seasons. His final season in the NFL in 1988 was spent with the Minnesota Vikings.
Coffman’s hard work and character are evident by the statistics he put up as a player. For his career, Coffman totaled 42 touchdowns, 339 receptions and 4,340 receiving yards.
Coffman was recognized for his accomplishments as an inductee of the Kansas High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1985, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Kansas Shrine Bowl Hall of Fame in 2008.
Although his career ended in 1988, Coffman continued his hard work, this time choosing to spend his time devoted to his wife and four children, all of whom went on to play collegiate sports at the Division I level.
Success isn’t about being in the right place at the right time — it’s about working to be in a position to succeed when those opportunities arise, as illustrated by 2015 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Coffman.