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Pirate Notebook No. 314
Monday, August 6, 2007

By Denny O'Brien

Coffman thriving in leadership role

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Josh Coffman is one of East Carolina's team leaders on the field and in the classroom. The senior from Palmetto, FL, has transitioned during his college career from promising tight end to All-Conference offensive lineman, capturing the attention of NFL scouts and maintaining elite academic status in the process. (ECU SID photo)


Audio: Skip Holtz at the ECU Pirates' Media Day
Bradsher: Winning 'em over in back country not easy
O'Brien: Coaches sound off on 'Mid-Major' label
O'Brien: Expansion not on C-USA radar
Cherubini: Ex-Pirate coach applauds state of program
Gold: ECU pays price for Florida's success
Audio: Skip Holtz at the C-USA Media Blitz
Audio: Britton Banowsky at the C-USA Media Blitz

For Josh Coffman, leadership isn’t an idle role that is inherited by tenure. It is a privilege, he says, and it’s one that carries with it an immense responsibility.

That’s why the senior offensive tackle doesn’t flinch at being labeled one of East Carolina’s leaders as it approaches the 2007 season. Entering his fifth year in the program, Coffman embraces that distinction and understands its importance on a team still heavy on youth and inexperience.

And like any true leader, Coffman has a list of goals he would like to see his teammates achieve both this year and beyond. You just might be surprised at the top item on his list.

“First, we want to get everyone a degree,” Coffman said. “The underclassmen, we want to get them working towards a degree.

“You know, football doesn’t last forever. We all want it to, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

An accomplished student himself, you couldn’t pick a more accountable player on ECU’s roster to enforce the program’s academic policies. As a mainstay on both the ECU Athletic Director’s and Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, he embraces the importance of higher education and the urgency of motivating his teammates to strive for the same.

On the field, his goals are no less lofty.

“We want to win championships,” he said. “We’re not necessarily going to be able to fight for a national championship every week or a conference championship every week just based on the opponents that we play. But we can narrow our focus down in every single game.

"Take Virginia Tech. The only thing we are playing for in that game is the national championship. The second game of the year, we are playing for the state championship. The third, we play for a conference championship.”

ECU was literally seconds away from earning a spot in the C-USA championship game last year. The Pirates fumbled away sure victory at UAB with under a minute remaining and surrendered a last second field goal at Rice to close the conference slate.

The sting from both losses, along with the resulting replay of ‘What Ifs’, still lingers for Coffman. If nothing else, it has helped reinforce the importance of the weekly mantra Pirates coach Skip Holtz emphasized last year.

Coffman not only embraces that familiar coaching cliché, he takes it a step further.

“We’ve got to take it one week at a time,” Coffman said. “We’ve got to go 1-0. That’s all we can do is focus on one game at a time.

“It’s not even going 1-0 that particular week. It’s going 1-0 that particular play, or that particular block that you make. You have to be sure that you do your job exactly right on every single play. You break it down to one step at a time, one block at a time, one day at a time. That’s how you have to think.”

In many ways, that mindset summarizes Coffman’s evolution as a player. Recruited by former Pirate assistant Jerry Odom as a tight end, he was asked to shift to the offensive line shortly after Holtz and his staff arrived.

It took a huge dose of humility — Coffman had a passion for catching the ball — but he took a redshirt year to completely reshape his physique. It was 365 days of intense workouts, a diet that included six meals per day, and plenty of tutoring from offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler.

One year later, the lanky tight end from Palmetto, Florida, had transfigured himself into a sturdy 6’7”, 295-pound offensive lineman. And in his first season as a member of ECU’s offensive front, Coffman grabbed a spot on the All-Conference USA squad.

He spent most of last year at right guard, but has since shifted over to right tackle. Entering only his second season on the offensive line, C-USA named him to repeat his all-conference performance from last season, while NFL scouts are currently projecting him as a sixth round pick.

But individual goals are far from Coffman’s radar.

“First and foremost, it’s not about what I do,” Coffman said. “It’s about the team. If we don’t have a successful year this year, it’s not going to be a success for me personally at all. We have to have a great season.

"It’s all about how well we can perform as a team that gets me and the upperclassmen attention. I’m not looking beyond this team.”

Maybe that’s because Coffman understands that the glamour of NFL Sundays will arrive soon enough. And maybe Coffman is one of those dying breeds who wouldn’t trade the college experience to hop onto the professional fast track.

One thing is for certain, Coffman has enjoyed his career at ECU — one that has been marked by a transition from tight end to the offensive line, and more importantly by his metamorphosis as a leader.

“Being an upperclassmen on the offensive line has been an absolute treat,” Coffman said. “These guys are some of the hardest workers that I’ve been around.

“It’s made this summer awesome. They’re hard workers and they’re always asking questions, always watching film, always wanting to do a new drill. That type of hard work is going to pay off this season.”

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08/06/2007 12:40:08 AM

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