- Inducted: 1994
- Tight End: 1978-85
- Height: 6-3; Weight: 222
- College: Kansas State, 1975-77
- Pro Bowl Selection (played since 1950): 1982, ’83, ’84
A walk-on and virtually undecorated as a college football player and then undrafted over 12 rounds and 334 selections before his first pro season, Paul Coffman drove himself to become one of the most accomplished self-made players in Packers history.
Although Coffman never made an all-conference team at Kansas State, he was named to the National Football Conference Pro Bowl squad three times in his eight years with the Packers. As a rookie, Coffman played behind Rich McGeorge and didn’t catch a pass. The next year, in 1979, he beat out McGeorge for the starting job, led all NFL tight ends in catches, and set team records for a tight end with 56 pass receptions and 711 yards.
“The greatest example I can think of, of taking what God gave you talent-wise and maximizing it … Paul makes the team, goes on to become a three-time Pro Bowler and a key cog on one of the best offenses in the National Football League,” former teammate Larry McCarren said in 2018. “And he did it with just decent athletic tools. … If you want to see a try-hard guy make good, you’re looking at a picture of Paul Coffman.”
After playing on Kansas State teams that went 6-27, Coffman was all but destined to be ignored by pro scouts, except that he roomed with more highly touted linebacker Gary Spani and persuaded visiting NFL talent sleuths to let him join Spani’s workouts during their campus visits in the pre-combine years. John Meyer, Packers linebackers coach, was one of those who visited Manhattan, Kan., before the May 1978 draft and agreed to let Coffman join Spani for his workout. At the time, Coffman weighed 212 pounds and ran maybe a 4.8 40-yard dash, which meant he had two strikes against him: He was deemed too small and too slow for the NFL. But Meyer determined during Spani’s workout that Coffman was worthy of a training camp look as a free agent, and the Packers signed him within a week after the draft.
Eight years later, Coffman ended his career in Green Bay with 322 pass receptions, then fifth-most in team history and the most by a tight end. He averaged 13.1 yards per catch and scored 39 touchdowns. Coffman’s most productive game was in 1980 in the Packers’ first meeting with Tampa Bay when he caught nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Probably his most memorable performance was in the 1983, 48-47, Monday night victory over Washington when Coffman caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also missed only two of 121 possible games with an injury and started all but three from his second season on.
Coffman especially benefited from playing his last four years in Green Bay under offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker, a former tight end who featured the position in his offense and understood there were nuances to playing it – route running, timing, etc. – that were just as important as a player’s size and speed. “He had to work hard and had that physical problem with one arm being shorter than the other,” Schnelker said of Coffman in a 2003 interview. “But he could catch a ball. Concentration, effort. He’d run a route just like I asked him to run it all the time. He’d work at it, do it in practice, do it in the game and come wide open.”
Coffman also benefited from playing with quarterback Lynn Dickey, another Kansas State product who could make every throw necessary to take advantage of a tight end’s skills. “We were on the same page all of the time,” Dickey said in 2007. Plus, Dickey noted, “I’m trying to remember if he ever dropped a pass, a decent pass. If he did, I bet I could count in the eight years on three fingers.” Yet it was Coffman who put in the time and effort to accomplish what he did. “He was a very intense person,” said Lew Carpenter, Coffman’s receivers coach during his entire career in Green Bay. “He worked his ass off. He and (James) Lofton were film studiers. They understood the game.”
On Sept. 1, 1986, Coffman was waived as part of a housecleaning of veteran players in Green Bay. Eight days later, he signed with Kansas City as a free agent. Coffman played two years with the Chiefs and was released again. In 1988, he signed with New Orleans as a free agent, got cut in training camp and signed with Minnesota, where he finished his career, appearing in eight games without a catch.
Born March 29, 1956. Given name Paul Randolph Coffman.