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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)
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
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
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
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
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
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.”