By Mark Janssen
Let's play pretend.
Pretend you are the parents. Let's name you Paul and Amy.
Pretend that you have four children. Let's name them Chase, Carson, Camille and Cameron, who all were, or are, student-athletes.
OK, let's stop pretending because you have just been introduced to the Coffman family.
"As parents, we are so blessed to have some great kids, who are having the opportunity to pursue their dreams," said Paul Coffman, who works for Meyer Laboratories in the Kansas City area.
With dad Coffman being a former K-State and Green Bay Packers/Kansas City Chiefs tight end, he adds, "All the guys in the family are highly competitive, so it's Amy who keeps the balance in our family. She took a badminton class at K-State, but that's it when it comes to sports. She's the one that brings all of us back down to earth when we get too high or excited, or too low."
ONE HECTIC, EMOTION-FILLED LIFESTYLE: In a four-day span in early September, Paul drove to Indianapolis for one of Chase's exhibition games, drove back after the game arriving home at 6 a.m. and watched Cameron play football Friday night, then watched Camille play volleyball via the internet, and finally he and Amy drove to Manhattan to watch Carson play UCLA.
This past weekend, Chase came home to join the family and see Carson play against Kansas on Thursday, and then Cameron on Friday night. Paul and Amy then boarded a plane with Cameron for a trip to Wyoming Saturday morning, where, of course, they watched Camille play volleyball.
It's a lifestyle that Coffman says, "We are loving it. We have been so blessed."
For a parent, however, there can be trying times sitting in a stadium filled with fanatics who live and die with each snap of the football. Each snap, in this case, handled by their son, Carson.
Like most former athletes, Coffman says of his fan-style, "I'm an analyzer instead of a cheerer. I don't make a lot of noise. Maybe an occasional 'Yeah!' or a 'Nooo!' but you don't hear too much from me."
In the last two Thursday's, Paul and Amy have lived a life of Big Red and Purple Pride extremes with their son: Nebraska 48, K-State 13; K-State 59, Kansas 7.
"There aren't words for it. It's like a woman who has a baby. Unless you experience it yourself, you don't have the words for it," said Coffman of the seven-day emotional ride. "Everyone was so pumped up for the Nebraska game, and then 'Boom.' You think, 'Golly, what happened?'
"Then at Kansas all the passes are perfect, all the audibles work, touchdowns were scored, and you just say, 'Yes! A blessing has come'," said Coffman. "We were so happy for him."
It was a year ago that the Coffman's endured Chase being drafted by the Bengals, but not playing; Carson starting the first four KSU games, but then getting benched; and Cameron battling a junior season of injuries.
"It's a life where you're only doing as well as how life is going for your kid who is struggling the most. When one child is struggling, no matter how great things are with the others, you're hurting for the one," said Coffman. "You just have to understand that there are ups and downs in sports, and those ups and downs prepare you for life.
"God has a plan, and he's molding your character at all times," said Coffman. "You look at any type of adversity in a way of, 'What's God trying to teach me? What can I take that's positive from this experience?' "
SONS, DAUGHTER LIKE FATHER: Certainly not to take anything away from the balance Amy adds to the family, the competitive spirit, the work ethic, and the overcoming of great odds comes from dad.
Coffman's mother was a high-level competitive swimmer and his dad a sun-up to sun-down farmer in Rice County, located in central Kansas. If not on the tractor, teenager-Paul was working in the oil fields for $2.50 per hour.
"It was a rural Kansas mentality of doing whatever it took to get the job done," said Coffman. "There were times there was no way to get the job done, but you did it."
Coffman came to K-State as a 205-pound walk-on tight end in 1974. Playing for Ellis Rainsberger's Wildcats in 1975-76-77, the Wildcats went a collective 6-27, which included an 0-27 Big 8 record.
It was a time when Coffman said, "You weren't going to win, but at the same time you poured yourself into what you loved doing. We went through seven quarterbacks in my three years, and it was a time when a physical education instructor wrote a scathing article in The Collegian that we should drop football."
He added that there was a boycott by the entire freshman class of players in his senior year because they wanted playing time.
"It was a time when we were losing, and losing games by a lot, so the coaches thought if they worked us harder, and yelled at us more, we would play better," Coffman said. "Coaches get in trouble today for grabbing a facemask. That is nothing compared to the physicality that we went through."
To be honest, Coffman says, "The playing memories aren't that good, but the people I was with made it a great experience."
Coffman, now 54, later became a 215-pound tight end free agent with the Green Bay Packers. His NFL career lasted 10 years, which included the final two with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1986 and 1987. Coffman was voted onto three Pro Bowl teams and had career statistics of 339 receptions for 4,340 yards and 42 touchdowns. The former free agent is now a member of the storied Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.
"It was a 'will' type thing," reflected Coffman. "I could control how hard I worked and I could control my attitude. I couldn't control the coaches, the refs, the crowd, or the other team, but I could control how much effort I put into what I wanted to do. At times, life isn't fair, but it's all about how you react to it and what you do with the opportunities you have."
Like Chase has, like Carson has, like Camille has, and like Cameron has.