Paul Coffman on Making Packers as Undrafted Rookie
We recently had a chance to talk to Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer Paul Coffman, who is one member of a very exclusive group — Hall of Famers who were undrafted out of college.
Coffman joined the Packers in 1978 out of Kansas State. Although he didn’t catch a pass his rookie season, he did beat the odds to make the team before going on to become one of the best tight ends in Packers history. With training camp in full swing, we asked Coffman about the experience of his rookie season. Here’s what he had to say.
When you were signed did you think you had a chance to make the team?
I was confidant that I could make the team. I was very naive. I didn’t know that it was rare that a 6’3″ 215-pound tight end that only caught 24 balls in his college career made NFL teams. I knew I would be in better shape than anyone, that I would work harder and that I would know my plays and not make mental errors.
What was that first training camp like?
That first training camp was hard. Everyday I didn’t know if I was going home or going to practice. They had five tight ends in camp and they only kept two. My name was No. 5 on the depth chart. They gave me No. 94 — not a good number for a tight end they were going to keep, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was first to every drill and won every sprint with linebackers, tight ends and fullbacks.
What was your focus during camp and when did you think you had a shot at making the Packers?
My focus was to leave it all on the field. I was yelling and hollering everytime I got in the huddle because I wanted the coaches to know that I was in there. I only got a couple reps during team period. Larry McCarran and the line called me kiss ass. I wasn’t there to make friends, but to make the team. The longer camp lasted and the harder it was gave me hope because I knew no one would outwork me. I didn’t know for sure I had a job until after the last cut. Lew Carpenter wasn’t much on telling rookies that you were doing a good job!
You didn’t catch a pass that first season before having a stellar second season. At what point did you feel like you’d established yourself and didn’t really have to worry about fighting for a roster spot?
It wasn’t until I made my first Pro Bowl in ’82 that I thought they might keep me for awhile.