SI Vault
Seeking a Life After College Football
Angela Busch
March 05, 2007
Lacking a degree or an NFL roster spot, an ex--Missouri star tries to find his way
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
March 05, 2007

Seeking A Life After College Football

Lacking a degree or an NFL roster spot, an ex--Missouri star tries to find his way

View CoverRead All Articles

SEAN COFFEY went along with the program. When he arrived at Missouri in 2001 as a highly touted wide receiver--an ESPN high school All-American out of East Cleveland's Shaw High--he gave his life over to football. Coffey says he entered a world of groupthink in which he and his teammates were blank-faced "assembly-line workers" doing whatever they were told. "I wasn't encouraged much by our coaching staff as a whole to do anything outside of football," he says. "Lots of [the] things I was encouraged to do, they were all to benefit the Missouri football program." Even though he was from the inner city and had no interest in farming, Coffey followed the advice of athletic department academic counselors and became an agriculture major. "All the athletes start in ag because it's easy," says Coffey. On the recommendation of an athletic-department adviser he eventually switched his major to hotel and restaurant management (another subject in which he had no interest). "Our academic people's job is to keep us eligible," he says. "They know every class and which ones are easiest."

Coffey made the program better: In 2004, as a junior, he was honorable mention All-- Big 12 after leading the Tigers with 39 catches for 648 yards and a school-record 10 touchdowns. As a senior, however, he partially separated his left shoulder in the opener against Arkansas State. He played in pain, then reinjured the shoulder on a punt return (his first one since 11th grade) against Baylor. Despite missing four games, he finished as Missouri's third-leading pass catcher. The next spring Coffey stopped going to classes so he could prepare for the NFL draft. He was 10 credits short of his degree.

Coffey went undrafted. Invited to the San Diego Chargers' camp as a rookie free agent, he injured his shoulder yet again and was cut. By last fall he was back on campus, trying to earn his final credits and find new direction. It was a struggle. He talked about taking another shot at the NFL, or trying coaching, or TV, or working in promotions. He flunked chemistry and left school again at the end of the semester, still three credits shy of his degree.

Joe Scogin, director of academic services for the Missouri athletic department, says athletes are initially steered into the agriculture school because all the advisers there are faculty members (not grad students) and give athletes a lot of one-on-one attention. He says that advisers are genuinely concerned with the athletes' best interests and try to get athletes to make more of their own decisions. Scogin notes that Coffey had academic assistance available to him last fall, but "whether the student takes advantage or not, that's another thing."

A former college baseball player, Scogin says he understands why Coffey and other athletes sometimes feel discarded after their college careers end. "The worst thing that can happen is to do everything to help a student until his eligibility is done and then all of a sudden abandon him," Scogin says.

Adrian McBride, a former Tigers football player who now works with the athletic department, has founded a program called Life After Sports to help Missouri athletes avoid the sort of problems Coffey faced. McBride says school administrators are doing their best to improve the athletic environment. "They see the problems--they realize there's a need," he says. "But this is small potatoes compared to the big picture of an athletic department. The name of the game is to win, sell tickets and make money."

As for Coffey, he is living near Kansas City, working out, thinking about starting a video company and weighing whether to take another shot at the NFL.