NFL player quits, citing ministry call

By James Summerlin

Before the 2010 NFL season started, San Francisco 49ers back-up running back Glen Coffee retired from professional football. Coffee is 23 years old and had just come off a successful season. The move was abrupt. Few people retire at such a young age, especially when their career shows promise.

In August, Coffee opened up about his decision.

“I can’t do what I want to do as far as spreading the Gospel and ministry if my heart is not in peace,” Coffee said during an Aug. 17 ESPN radio interview. “I really felt like for me to do what I need to do and for me to answer my calling, I needed to be outside of football. If you’re not at peace yourself, it’s hard to minister to others.”

Coffee is now returning to the University of Alabama to finish his degree he left behind when drafted into the NFL. He is seeking a ministry, but will not force any particular field.

“It’s not something you can plan out like, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ I’m going to let it come to me,” Coffee said.

When I was a junior in high school, I experienced the call to ministry. It was not something I jumped to immediately. I wrestled with the decision to follow God’s will. After seeking counsel for this decision, I fully surrendered after I received a piece of advice I have since shared with young men who also feel the call.

“If you think you can do something else with your life, do that.”

The heart of the advice is that the ministry is truly a calling and you will know what God expects of you when the time comes.

Coffee tried to do something else. He came to Christ as a junior and said he lost the passion for the game of football after receiving Christ. He said he believes entering the NFL was a mistake and he is now considering full-time ministry.

We can name Christians who have played or are still playing the game of football. We think of Tim Tebow, Kurt Warner and Colt McCoy. The late Reggie White was an ordained minister while he played football for Philadelphia and Green Bay.

But when a player walks away from the game to follow Christ, the story gets buried. Coffee could have been a successful player in the league. He had a platform to share his faith and no one would blame him.

Coffee arguably made a tougher choice than the players mentioned. It is easy to give glory to God in a win. It is easy to share the faith when you know people will listen. However, walking away and trusting that God will provide better ministry opportunities is a step of faith and should be commended. It is behind the scenes and it is not glorified.

Coffee’s desicion shows a good example of a disciple of Christ. The call for discipleship is one of sacrifice and faith. It is not be glamorous, and leaps of faith should be expected.  This relies solely on the sovereignty of God. Coffee’s faith should be praised and not lost in the sports section.

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