I called Glen Coffee at his Los Gatos apartment at 8:30 this morning. When I told him who I was, he said he was told not to talk to the media. But he said he would because, "I feel like it needs to be known why I did what I did." Coffee seemed very confidant of his decision and was happy and thoughtful throughout the conversation. There is an ongoing push - from teammates, family members, etc. - to get him to return to the team, but it's very hard to see them winning Coffee over. If you ask me, his decision is final. Here's the exclusive interview:
The first question I asked him was why, why step away from such a lucrative profession?
Coffee: "It was a struggle for a long time. Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place. Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the (49ers') time."
Why do you think you couldn't reconcile football and your faith?
Coffee: "His will, I felt, wasn't football. I felt like I forced football because everyone expected me to play football. He told me a long time ago to walk away from the game."
What will you do now?
Coffee: "It's simple. I'm going back to school." Coffee, who left the University of Alabama after his junior year, said he needed only six hours to get an undergraduate degree in consumer affairs. However, he plans to get a master's as well.
I noted that Alabama associates him with football more than anywhere else. Will it be hard to return to a school that knows you as a tailback?
Coffee: "It's going to be both. There's going to be people that understand and there's going to be people that don't understand and don't care to understand. They're going to feed off that negativity. That's life."
There has been speculation that outside influences, something like a failed drug test, prompted your decision. Can you put that to rest?
Coffee (laughs): "Yesterday I was reading on the Internet and some reporter said I made the decision because I got blown up in a blocking drill. Come on, man! Give me more credit than that! But I've got to expect that when I do something so unexpectedly. No, there were no personal issues. But I really am sorry that I put the 49ers in this situation. I should have handled it a lot differently."
You've been working nonstop since the 2009 season ended to transform your body and become a better running back. How do you do that when your mind's not fully into football?
Coffee: "Because whatever you do, you've got to do it to glorify Christ. You've got to do it 100 percent. Even though my head - it was sort of me holding onto the sport. I tried to get all the way into it."
Did the harshness of Mike Singletary's training camp play a role?
Coffee: "No. It's what we do. We're football players. I'm not walking away because of that. As far as coach Singletary and the 49ers - Singletary, that dude is legit. He's legit on all levels. He's doing what he feels is right. It's definitely not camp (that prompted his decision) and how hard camp was. That's football."
Was it difficult to tell Singletary your decision Friday morning?
Coffee: "It wasn't necessarily that I thought he was going to me mad at me. It was that I didn't take lightly that I was leaving my teammates. Because they thought I was going to war with them."
Any way you will reconsider?
Coffee: "No, man. I've already told Christ it's time to go. I've already rung the bell. That's not going to happen."
-- Matt Barrows