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Ex-49er Coffee: NFL 'ruins lives,' but I'd return if Lord says so

Glen Coffee abruptly walked away from his NFL career in August, saying he wanted to focus on his Christian faith. The former San Francisco 49ers running back still isn't enamored with the NFL lifestyle, but he won't rule out returning to the game.

Actually, he's back, sort of, playing linebacker in a semipro football league in his native Florida while taking online classes at the University of Alabama, where he starred before going to the 49ers in the third round of the 2009 draft.

Coffee played only one season in San Francisco before informing former 49ers coach Mike Singletary during last year's training camp that he was done. Coffee's reasons for quitting have baffled many, but he told *The Sacramento Bee* this week that the NFL "ruins a lot of lives" and that he takes his cues from "the Lord."

"People just keep asking me (why he quit the NFL), and it's like, 'OK, why are you asking me that?' " Coffee said. "And their No. 1 reason -- their only reason -- is money. It saddens me, man. If your only focus is money, you're going to be sorely disappointed. A lot of people, they chase money. And when they get the money they think, 'OK, what now? There's got to be more than what I'm feeling now?' ...

"As far as the NFL goes, I have a hard time putting it like this because it sounds kind of harsh, but I feel like it ruins a lot of lives more than anything else. And that goes for people who have short careers in the NFL and long careers in the NFL. Because what happens is they see that as success. And money throughout your life has nothing to with your salvation in Christ.

"A lot of players get that money. And they chase that money, man, and I feel that they're really missing the true meaning of life. So I'm constantly afraid for the NFL and the players, because kids growing up nowadays, they see that as the end all, be all. And that's just not the case."

Quitting the NFL had nothing to do with the physical toll that the game takes, Coffee said, although "people assume that's why I left."

"If you ask anybody who knows me -- and I say this with full confidence -- they'll say I'm one of the toughest people they know," he said. "Because that's not a factor for me. When I was playing football, if I had something that needed to be done, it was no questions asked. I did it with 100 percent of my heart. That didn't weigh in as a decision for me, but at the same time I do feel like guys have it in their head that it's OK to put my body through this because I'm getting paid to do it.

"Looking at it from that standpoint, I think it's wrong. But, I mean, people are grown. And when they sign on that line, they know what they're going to go through. But it does suck that they have to put their bodies through that."

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Coffee, 24, courted controversy, especially in light of his commitment to Christianity, when he was arrested in October in Alabama for possession of a concealed firearm. Charges were later dropped, but critics railed against him.

"It really hurts me that they'll judge like that, because in the end they'll hurt themselves," Coffee told The Bee. "But as far as the handgun, first of all, I'm human. I see nothing wrong with owning a gun. I actually like guns. I plan to collect guns in the future. I was in the process of collecting guns when I got arrested.

"People say, 'OK, if you're a Christian, then you don't need a gun. Christ will protect you. You will never be in trouble.' I don't understand that. Because if I'm going to have a gun in my car, I'm going to have a gun. Now if I buy a gun telling myself I plan to use the gun in the future, then there's something wrong with that. But if I just want to have a gun in my car to have one in my car, I don't see what's wrong with that."

Coffee said two incidents while he lived in Tuscaloosa, Ala. -- one in which a man pretended he had a gun and another in which a man tried to rob him, during his sophomore year in college -- prompted him to purchase the weapon "for safety reasons."

"So then," he said, "we go ahead on the timeline: I find Christ, but it's almost like I already had the gun in my car. I'm already riding around with a gun in my car. And just because I found Christ, I didn't think in my head, 'OK, I don't need to have a gun in my car anymore.' You know what I'm saying? It's almost it wasn't as a big of a deal.

"It didn't cross my mind to say, 'I need to take the gun out of my car.' If I had it in my car, I didn't feel I needed to take it out of my car."

Had the gun been in plain sight, Coffee said, he wouldn't have been arrested.

Coffee is wrapping up his degree in consumer affairs and said he's not sure what he'll do next.

"As far as the ministry is concerned, I mean, that's always something that I try to do, speaking and things like that," he said. "But as far as the seminary and full-time ministry and things like that, I still haven't made that decision. And that door is always open. Right now I just want to finish school, and I'll go from there."

Any chance he'll return to the NFL?

"I never say never, man," he said. "You know, my reason for leaving is that I was there for the Lord. That's the reason I left 'Bama early, and that's the reason I also left the NFL. If the Lord should say that I should return one day, then I'll return. But as of right now, I don't see that happening. ...

"And I want to add on as a far as returning to the NFL -- how do I put this? I'm not what you call an entertainer, man. I don't want to sound mean or attack the NFL, but I'm not an entertainer. I see football as being the same as being a singer, being a dancer or something along those lines. When we fill out our W-2s, we're in that category of entertainers, man.

"That's not me. I want to be doing something to better myself, to better someone else. Glen Coffee's not an entertainer. ... I want to love what I do. I don't just want to get paid."

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