Glen Coffee seemingly had it all.

He had a successful career at Alabama playing for the Crimson Tide as their starting tailback. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, and made a pretty impressive debut playing behind San Fran’s starting tailback, Frank Gore, and his future in pro football looked bright.

In his rookie season he rushed for 226 yards and one touchdown. Although his yards per carry weren’t all that impressive (2.7), there were still enough bright spots in his first year that gave the 49ers coaching staff and fans reason to believe he could develop in his second year with San Fran into a solid running back. There was every reason to believe that he would form a nice one-two punch along with Gore in the 49ers backfield this year.

As training camp began for the 49ers, the first significant news coming out of camp was the dismissal by the team of Defensive End Kentwan Balmer.

Balmer, a former first-round pick (29th overall) by San Francisco in the 2008 NFL Draft out of North Carolina, was dismissed after not reporting to practice for five straight days. Considered a bust by many, the 49ers had high hopes when they drafted him, hoping he could fill a need on the defensive line.

Originally drafted as a DT, Balmer was moved to DE due to the 49ers going with a 3-4 defensive scheme last year. Late last season he was placed on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury, and never regained his spot, which had been taken over by Baraka Atkins, whom San Fran signed to replace him in the lineup.

Balmer’s dismissal was met with little attention, though.

However, the next piece of news coming out of San Fran’s training camp was far more newsworthy. Coffee, who everyone believed would be a part of the 49ers future, suddenly and unexpectedly announced his retirement from the 49ers and pro football.

“We just respond to this and move forward,” Coach Mike Singletary said. “We’re dealing with this in stride and continuing to have our best practice. The thing that we’re trying to do as the 49ers is that we’re trying to find 53 men that love the game of football.”

Coffee only played in the National Football League for one season and could have had a bright future there.

“I feel it is best for me that I move on from football,” he said.

Coffee was battling for the back-up spot against sixth-round pick, Anthony Dixon. Coach Mike Singletary said that he was doing fine in camp and was working well and there was nothing wrong with him. He didn’t report to practice on Thursday and informed Singletary of his decision on Friday.

“I appreciate his honesty and I appreciate him not coming out here and going through the motions,” Singletary said. “He said his heart isn’t in it. It’s his decision. He is a man, and the last thing that I’m going to do is disrespect him and try to drag something out.”

With Coffee’s retirement, the 49ers are left with Michael Robinson, Gore, and Dixon.

“We had no indication this was coming,” Robinson said. “Glen’s a good friend and it’s like I’m losing a brother. With Glen not being here, there is a void. But I’ve been here five years and I’ve seen backs come in and I’ve seen backs leave. We all have to elevate our games now.”

Dixon now doesn’t have as much pressure put on him anymore to compete for the back-up spot.

“This puts no more pressure on me than there already was,” Dixon said. “I knew they were going to call on me, and now it’s time to step up. This is what I’ve been waiting for, and I’m definitely out to show some people what I’m capable of.”

There’s a lot fans can learn from this situation. Many people might believe Coffee is being stupid. They may believe his decision isn’t wise, considering how well things were going for him, and because of the financial benefits he’d have from playing professional football.

However, Coffee’s decision clearly shows that you can be very talented at something, yet still not really be interested in doing it.

I believe he’s setting a good example, especially for other athletes. If your heart’s not fully in the game, I believe you shouldn’t try to make a career out of it.

I’m confident Coffee will find new employment soon, and if things change for him, and his desire to play football returns, he might even make a return to the pros if he wanted to.

There was a similar situation to this I remember.

Back in 2007 Indianapolis Colts’ defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock called it quits. He’s now trying out for the Seattle Seahawks.

And if Coffee never returns to football, that doesn’t mean he will have been a failure in life. Sports are not the only path to success in this life, and Glen seems to fully know that. He says he has many opportunities ahead of him.

There are many examples of professional athletes who either gave it up, or were considered busts, who went on to successful careers outside of sports.

Remember Heath Schuler?

Sure, he was a huge bust as a QB for the Washington Redskins. Yet, now he’s a successful politician serving as a congressman and working with the White House on important national matters.

When you really think about it, Coffee’s decision might end up being perfectly rational. Fans sometimes forget that sports are not the be all and end all in this world, and that there are many important things outside of sports.

I have to admit I myself was a bit surprised by Coffee’s decision, but who’s to say it’s not the perfect thing for him. Sometimes sports aren’t always the answer for some people.

As much as it seems a bit crazy, because of the money involved, we should all respect Glen Coffee’s choice, and wish him the best in whatever endeavors he pursues in the future.

Who knows, he may be our president one day.

When it comes down to it, people, sports can’t always be the answer to everything. Sometimes, you have to step away from sports and look at life without them. Sometimes you have to think about other things.

Doing so can actually make your life more meaningful.

Just ask Glen Coffee.


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