Admire Glen Coffee or despise Glen Coffee, you have to admit that Coffee is thought provoking. The one-time 49ers running back who abruptly walked away from the NFL in August has been making headlines since. He was arrested in October and charged with possession of a concealed firearm. Those charges were later dropped. Recently, he has been playing semi-pro football (he's a linebacker) in his native Florida.
Coffee, 24, is taking online classes at the University of Alabama and hopes to have his degree in consumer affairs by the end of the summer. He wouldn't rule out a return to the NFL, but judging by his harsh words for the league -- really, the pursuit of money -- that possibility seems remote indeed. Here is the Q&A. It takes a little while for it to warm up, but I think you'll agree it becomes provocative, which is why I included every word - 1,640 of them - spoken in the conversation:
Have you thought any more about what you want to do with that degree? Is the ministry a possibility?
GC: I still don't know exactly what I want to do with my career. As far as the ministry is concerned, I mean that's always something that I try to do, speaking and things like that. But as far as the seminary and full-time ministry and things like that, I still haven't made that decision. And that door is always open. Right now I just want to finish school, and I'll go from there.
Do you speak now at area churches?
GC: Wherever. In churches or it might be out of state. I stopped speaking for a while. I guess I got kind of bitter when I got arrested. I felt like it was unjust. I don't want to say I got into a shell, but I sort of backed away and took time to myself to get my thoughts together and things like that. But now I've started speaking again, so...
So you've come out of that shell recently?
GC: Yeah. I said I don't want to call it a shell. It wasn't a shell because I don't want to put up any barriers. I just backed away from what I guess you would say is the public eye.
When you do speak, what is your subject matter?
GC: Usually, I'll give my testimony and what I've been through and then pick a topic to speak on. The basis of all my speaking is Christ. There's no set agenda that I speak on. It's whatever's in my heart.
I'm sure a lot of people are interested in your decision to leave the NFL. Is that still a big topic for other people?
GC: It is. People just keep asking me that, and it's like, 'Ok, why are you asking me that?' And their No. 1 reason - their only reason - is money. It saddens me, man. If your only focus is money, you're going to be sorely disappointed. A lot of people, they chase money. And when they get the money they think, 'Ok, what now? There's got to be more than what I'm feeling now?' ... As far as the NFL goes, I have a hard time putting it like this because it sounds kind of harsh, but I feel like it ruins a lot of lives more than anything else. And that goes for people who have short careers in the NFL and long careers in the NFL. Because what happens is they see that as success. And money throughout your life has nothing to with your salvation in Christ. A lot of players get that money. And they chase that money, man, and I feel that they're really missing the true meaning of life. So I'm constantly afraid for the NFL and the players because kids growing up nowadays, they see that as the end all, be all. And that's just not the case.
When you say the NFL "ruins lives," are you also taking about the physical toll it takes? Did that come into play in your own reasoning?
GC: It didn't come into play for me, and it's hard for me to talk about that because people assume that's why I left. If you ask anybody who knows me - and I say this with full confidence - they'll say I'm one of the toughest people they know. Because that's not a factor for me. When I was playing football, if I had something that needed to be done, it was no questions asked. I did it with 100 percent of my heart. That didn't weigh in as a decision for me, but at the same time I do feel like guys have it in their head that it's ok to put my body through this because I'm getting paid to do it. Looking at it from that standpoint, I think it's wrong. But I mean - people are grown. And when they sign on that line, they know what they're going to go through. But it does suck that they have to put their bodies through that. I'll just put it that way.
There were definitely a lot of haters that popped up after your arrest. But I do think people had a hard time reconciling why a man of Christ had a handgun in his car. What do you say to that?
GC: That's funny to me because I feel like people fall in the area of judging, and it really hurts me that they'll judge like that because in the end they'll hurt themselves. But as far as the handgun, first of all, I'm human. I see nothing wrong with owning a gun. I actually like guns. I plan to collect guns in the future. I was in the process of collecting guns when I got arrested. People say, 'Ok, if you're a Christian, then you don't need a gun. Christ will protect you. You will never be in trouble.' I don't understand that. Because if I'm going to have a gun in my car, I'm going to have a gun. Now if I buy a gun telling myself I plan to use the gun in the future, then there's something wrong with that. But if I just want to have a gun in my car to have one in my car, I don't see what's wrong with that. I don't know, man. I don't know (long pause) - if I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong, how do I explain to you that I'm not doing nothing wrong? It's not something I think about. You know what I'm saying?
What I don't understand is, why have a gun in your car if there's no intention of ever using it? Why was it in your car?
GC: So you don't see the reason or the point of having the gun?
Right. If you're going to collect guns, that's one thing. But why would it be in your car?
GC: Well, let me see here ... In Tuscaloosa, I had two instances where pretty much - in one instance a guy pretended he had a gun and in another instance a guy attempted to rob me. That happened my sophomore year in college. So I purchased a gun. I put it in my car for safety reasons. So then we go ahead on the timeline: I find Christ, but it's almost like, I already had the gun in my car. I'm already riding around with a gun in my car. And just because I found Christ, I didn't think in my head, 'Ok, I don't need to have a gun in my car anymore.' You know what I'm saying? It's almost it wasn't as a big of a deal. It didn't cross my mind to say, 'I need to take the gun out of my car.' If I had it in my car, I didn't feel I needed to take it out of my car.
And as far as the law was concerned, it was perfectly legal to have the gun there - in an enclosed compartment - in the first place?
GC: Yeah. The law is kind of shaky, I guess. But pretty much, if it's in an enclosed compartment, you're fine. Because it's almost the same if you had the gun in your house. Actually, I found out after I got arrested, if I would have had the gun sitting on my lap or sitting on the dashboard, I would have been in no trouble because it wouldn't have been considered a concealed weapon.
Let me ask you about the 49ers. After you left, two more players - Kentwan Balmer and Michael Lewis - left the team, and so did an assistant coach, Johnnie Lynn. Were you still following the team at that point? Did that strike you in any way?
GC: I hate that it happened like that because the first thought in people's minds, which is understandable, is that something is going on with the coaching staff, something is not being done in the right manner or someone is making mistakes. And you start trying to find reasons when there are none to find. It just happened like that. There wasn't a reason for people doing that.
It was coincidental?
GC: It was, for real, just a coincidence.
Have the 49ers started to recoup money from your signing bonus?
GC: Um, well I don't want to talk about that because that's getting into legal stuff. So, I'll let that question go.
Last question - and it's the one that people will always wonder - any chance that you will return to the NFL?
GC: I never say never, man. You know, my reason for leaving is that I was there for the Lord. That's the reason I left 'Bama early and that's the reason I also left the NFL. If the Lord should say that I should return one day, then I'll return. But as of right now, I don't see that happening. But like I said, I never say never. ... And I want to add on as a far as returning to the NFL ... How do I put this? I'm not what you call an entertainer, man. I don't want to sound mean or attack the NFL, but I'm not an entertainer. I see football as being the same as being a singer, being a dancer or something along those lines. When we fill out our W2s, we're in that category of entertainers, man. That's not me. I want to be doing something to better myself, to better someone else. Glen Coffee's not an entertainer.
Are you saying football's too frivolous, not serious enough?
GC: I want to love what I do. I don't just want to get paid.
-- Matt Barrows