Most don’t understand his decision. He walked away from millions and a life of fame. At only 23, he had many good years of football left in him. His teammates on the NFL San Francisco 49ers don’t understand him. His fans can’t figure him out and he has suggested that even his family do not understand his clear choice to leave professional football. It seemed so sudden and to do it just before the 2010 season got into high gear, the question remains – why?
Was the training camp too rough and the coach too demanding – as some have hinted at? Was he ducking out of the limelight before some embarrassing news about him turned into a full-blown scandal? Did he receive a much more lucrative offer? Or does he have health issues he chooses not to disclose to the public?
None of the above. One journalist wrote about 23 year old Glen Coffee:
“The decision he made fascinates me, and not because of the money he left on the table, the NFL lifestyle he leaves behind, or even the new career he’ll find. Honestly, how many people ever find such a clear and direct calling in life; so clear that they’ll not only drop everything to follow it right now, but will also give up millions of dollars to do so? That’s a fortunate guy.” (1)
Born in Florida, Glen Coffee spent his first few years in Saudi Arabia where his dad worked. When they returned to the States, and after his parents divorced, he lived with his mother. He speaks highly of his mother and although he could count on one hand the times he had been taken to church, he admires the ‘life values’ his mother instilled in his young mind.
Other than receiving an offer to play football from the University of Alabama, he was unaware of any other reason why he’d end up at that university. Off he went to university.
My freshman year was pretty good as far as football. I played in all 13 games and ended the season as the team’s third-leading rusher. But something was missing. I was a good dude, had good character, and had been good at avoiding wrong and bad situations. I was well-respected on the team and campus, but that still wasn’t satisfying enough. I felt empty, like nothing I did would amount to anything. I never felt true joy. It was like, “Is this all the world has to offer?” (2)
His roommate lived a different life than the other guys on campus. Matthew Watson was a track athlete but sprinting didnot dominate his life. Matt was living for a higher purpose and Glen saw the difference constantly.
“Everything about him was sincere. I knew he had something I had never had or experienced, and I just wanted to know what it was.” (3)
Matt faithfully lived a Christian life before Glen in their room. He played Christian music and he refrained from doing anything that would be of a questionable character. Glen could see the depth in Matt’s life and the happiness he had that was missing in his own life. Matt invited Glen five times to a church service. Finally Glen went along.
As Glen started listening to the sermons, he realized what it was his roommate had that he didn’t have. He started to understand ‘who’ Matt was living for – Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t an accident or a close call that spoke to Glen or woke him up spiritually. It was the reality he saw in his roommate. He said:
“I was lying on my bed just thinking, “This is what I have been missing my whole life.” It just hit me. I wanted in. I wanted to be a part of the Kingdom. And when I surrendered to Christ, I felt that sense of true love and true happiness.” (4)
Glen wasn’t a party animal in university. His mother’s advice to live a clean life seemed to preserve him. Really, he was a good kid. But he attributed that goodness to his own self efforts: “a self-difference—a-my-mom-raised-me-better kind of different instead of a Jesus-making-me-righteous kind of different.” What he had before was merely ‘surface’ but God’s salvation changed him “from the inside out.” Glen called it a 180 change in his life.
That was in 2008.
Glen continued to play football but something had changed. He played well – so well, that he left college football to play professionally with the NFL San Francisco 49ers. But even though his career was blossoming and his credibility was growing and his fame was climbing something had changed deep inside Glen.
In an interview with Matt Barrows in August 2010, Glen explained why he retired from football; why he abruptly quit.
“Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything.” (5)
He tried to continue playing for two more years after his conversion in 2008 but his heart was no longer in the game. Glen’s decision was abrupt to those on the outside. But for him, he had struggled for those two years. Finally, he did what he needed to do. He told an affiliate of ESPN (WJOX94.5FM):
“I didn’t consult with anybody. It was totally between me and Jesus. I had found Christ in my junior year at ‘Bama. When I found Him, football was no longer my dream,” he explained. (6)
His former roommate, Matt Watson who won him to Christ said: “We are walking, talking, living, breathing… Christians, because Jesus died for us. ” (7)
Where to from here for Glen Coffee? Well, he plans to complete his university education and if God so chooses and directs his life, he’d like to share the good news from the Bible about Christ to others. As for a possible return to a career in football, Coffee pretty much ruled out the possibility, saying that there is “no turning back.”
“Like I said, I’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of people out there who need to be saved, who need to get to Heaven. It’s going to be a tough task. I think the football is done for me.” (8)
As you read this story, do you have a moment in your life when Christ changed your direction completely and changed you from the inside out? Or, are you among the people that Glen said who still need to be saved, who need to get to Heaven? Are you living a different life now because you appreciate that Jesus died for you? Is Christ your reason for living? Is He the Lord of your life?
For no better reason would anyone walk away from millions of dollars – fame and fortune. Glen’s reason for doing so – whether his family and friends understand him or not – is simply Christ. After Christ laying down His own life on the cross to save Glen, is any sacrifice too big for Glen to make in his life – out of love and gratitude for Christ?
And if you profess to be a Christian – do your friends see reality in your life? Do you listen to Christian music? Do you refrain from doing questionable things that may not be pleasing to Christ? Glen first saw Christ through the lifestyle of his roommate Matt. Are you living a faithful life for Christ?
Are you a real Christian or one in name only? Did Jesus Christ do anything for you specifically that has changed your feelings towards Him?
“For the wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God
is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Leave a comment below explaining what Christ means to you today.
2, 3, 4. http://www.sharingthevictory.com/vsItemDisplay.lsp?method=display&objectid=461561BD-4FE0-46E9-8885C65F7755DC1C