Missouri tight end Chase Coffman had a really tough break a couple of months ago.
While capping off a magical senior year that resulted in 90 catches for 987 yards and ten touchdowns, Coffman approached the line of scrimmage in overtime as the Tigers battled Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. He had already snared a team-leading seven catches for 67 yards in the contest.
"On the very last play of the game, I just happened to make a cut and
heard a pop, felt the pop in my left foot," Coffman recalled during an
exclusive interview with Scout.com.
Quarterback Chase Daniels completed a 7-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin to give the Tigers a 30-23 victory, but that play marked the begin of a challenging period in Coffman's life rather than the start of an exciting pre-draft journey.
The day after the Alamo Bowl, the 6-foot-6, 244-pound tight end was heading for medical consultations and eventually, surgery.
Chase Coffman leaps over Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey to score a touchdown.
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
"I had a Jones Fracture, which is a break of the fifth metatarsal, on my left foot," Coffman explained. "I had to have a screw put in so that it would heal quicker and make sure it stays strong.
"It's healing all right, everything's going well, but it feels like it's been forever. I'll probably start running soon, but I'm just kind of playing it by ear now."
Coffman is still hopeful that he'll be able to participate in Missouri's next Pro Day on March 19. But if not, he'll set up a personal workout as soon as he's sure he can show NFL talent evaluators what he's fully capable of doing.
The time off has undoubtedly been difficult for a fearless player who likes
being counted on to make the tough catches in the middle of the field where
receivers are the most vulnerable from all angles. But Coffman's size is a huge
asset in absorbing the blows and in helping him dish out some punishment while
carrying the ball after the catch.
"If I'm not open, I can just get my body in front of a defender—in between him and the ball—so I have the opportunity to get to the pass," he said. "Going over the middle, you're going to get hit, so it's better to catch it and to get hit. It's worse if you don't catch it, because then they're talking trash when the play's over. So you just have to try to concentrate on the ball."
Coffman showcased his pass-catching ability throughout the season, finishing the year as the Big 12's leader in receptions per game and fifth in the nation in receptions per game among all receivers, not just tight ends. He also became the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision's (Div. I-A) all-time leader in receptions by a tight end during his senior year.
As a result of his outstanding work on and off the playing field, Coffman earned the Mackey Award, which is presented to the top tight end in the country. No other player in the history of his school had won a national individual-position award.
"It's a great honor to win the Mackey award. Just to be named the best at your position is what everybody wants to do," Coffman said. "To go out there and have fun doing what I love and to be able to be recognized with that award is what I've been shooting for ever since I've been a tight end."
Chase Coffman snatches the ball out of the air against Nebraska.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
"Ever since I knew what football was and went outside and started playing, I was out in the backyard throwing and catching passes and just running around having fun," he said. "My Dad has had a big impact on me, just with everything that he's taught me—just to work hard, do the things that got me here and don't worry about what everyone else has to say about me. If they don't like what I'm doing down on the field, I'm just going to keep working hard and do the best that I can out there and keep having fun."
While the former Tigers tight end is waiting—as patiently as he possibly can—to get back out on the field and run some routes, he's done what he can to make an impression on NFL coaches and scouts through interviews, such as the ones he participated in at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"That's every kid's dream to go to the Combine and to end up getting drafted," he said. "I met with just about every single team there in informal interviews and then there were about ten formal interviews that I had with teams. It was great just to be able to tell them about myself and my background. It's stuff they probably already know about me, but just to hear it from me and for us to get to know each other face-to-face was another good opportunity for me."
He's also been able to impress coaches with his knowledge of the game and how he approaches his position.
"I work hard to keep getting better—reading defenses, how they're going to move and how to find open areas, just getting into that open space that helps the quarterback see you so that you can make a play."
Although he may be focused on preparing for a successful transition into the NFL at this particular point in his life, Chase Coffman is still able to look back on a college career filled with many great memories, despite his one tough break in the Alamo Bowl.
"It was a very fun team to play on, a great offense, a lot of great teammates and coaches that did a great job of preparing us and setting us up for the success that we had," he said. "It was definitely fun to be a part of, and I'm very proud of it."
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter for NFL updates and insights. And you can contact him by email through this link.