Former Missouri tight end Chase Coffman receives his induction plaque from Missouri Sports Hall of Fame president Jerald Andrews last Sunday in Springfield.

Chase Coffman prayed. He prayed on his college choice, a decision that weighed on him as he wrapped up a highly successful career as a wide receiver and tight end at Raymore-Peculiar High School.

“I wanted to stay fairly close to home. I didn’t really know what fairly close was. I was looking at Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas State also,” Coffman said. “Ultimately, it was Missouri.”

After an eight-year career in the NFL, Coffman has returned to make his home in western Missouri. His four years as a Missouri Tiger, though, played the largest part in Coffman being inducted Sunday into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

Coffman is one of 15 individuals, two sports families and two high school programs that make up the Class of 2019.

Other inductees that made impacts in mid-Missouri were the Sandbothe family, which had three athletes become successful basketball players at Missouri; Rod Smith, the longtime sports director at KRCG-TV in Jefferson City; and Steve Hunter, a highly successful basketball coach at West Plains, Hartville and Ozark.

Coffman featured at Missouri from 2005-08, during which time he became the most prolific pass-catching tight end in the program’s history. In four years as No. 45 with the Tigers, Coffman caught 247 passes for 2,659 yards and 30 touchdowns. As a senior in 2007, he was a consensus All-American and won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.

Right out of school, Coffman saw a path to superstardom in professional football. Now retired from the game as a husband and father of two, Coffman — clean-cut and dressed in a sharp blue sport coat for Sunday’s Hall of Fame ceremony — can appreciate a long and steady professional career, even if it wasn’t superstar-worthy.

“I expected to do a lot better things,” he said Sunday. “I had some success in the NFL and thought that would continue after that happened, but never continued to get big opportunities. I made the most of the small opportunities I got and that’s what kept me around for eight years.”

The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Coffman in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. After three years in Cincinnati, Coffman spent two seasons in Atlanta, a year-and-a-half in Tennessee, a half-year in Seattle and one season in Indianapolis. He finished with 18 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns in the NFL.

“Being as frustrating as it was, through that whole process of like, ‘Golly, how are these guys getting opportunities or getting paid or whatever the case and not me?’ That’s a selfish attitude, obviously. Looking back on it, it’s like, God has put me in this position for a reason,” Coffman said. “I don’t know what it is and I don’t know where I’d be if it had gone my way. But it’s such a blessing to make it as far as I did.”

Coffman has always relied on his Christian faith, which was tested after he made the decision to not resign with the Bengals in 2012. Instead, he ended up with the Falcons, who needed a second tight end to back up Tony Gonzalez.

Coffman spent most of his first season in Atlanta on the practice squad, but things were looking up in 2013. He was practicing well and looked on track to be a contributor — if not a star — on the Falcons’ offense.

Then Atlanta signed two tight ends just before the season started, putting Coffman’s role in serious doubt.

“As soon as I read they were bringing these guys in, I was so frustrated. Mad,” Coffman said. “I remember lying in bed with my wife and saying, it’s not our choice for whatever happens. And praying with her — ‘God, your will be done, not ours.’”

With that realization came a new peace. Atlanta cut Coffman after the 2013 season, but he immediately caught on with the Tennessee Titans. That season, he became a father and caught his first professional touchdown pass.

It was a 3-yard corner route from quarterback Zach Mettenberger on Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coffman remembers every little detail but one.

“I don’t know if there was a light in front of the ball, or in that area, or what. I don’t remember seeing the ball come into my hands,” Coffman said. “But from doing it over and over and over, I knew the area it was going to be and put my hands there and expected it to hit, and it did.”

Coffman caught another touchdown pass with the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17 of the 2015 season. He played one more year with the Indianapolis Colts, mostly on the practice squad, then was cut. He stayed in game shape throughout 2017, waiting for a call that never came.

Coffman now works for BMG Advisors, a financial advising firm in Kansas City. He’s excited about his new career, which allows him to serve people and have flexibility to spend time with his family.

His faith hasn’t wavered. There’s no regret over the fame he didn’t achieve in the NFL.

“I look at some guys that have success at an early age and you can kinda see — men are not made to be worshipped,” Coffman said, “and that’s what happens in professional sports.”

FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: Sunday was basically a reunion for the Sandbothe family, which was inducted collectively for their achievements in sports across the board.

Seven Sandbothe siblings — who were raised in Linn and then Washington — earned collegiate scholarships and were present for the ceremony in Springfield. Their mother, Nellie, and father, Louis, also were in attendance.

“I’m not one to brag publicly about them,” Louis said, “but they all know we’re proud of them.”

Louis played basketball at Central Missouri and was the principal at Washington High School, where his children made ample use of his key to the gymnasium.

Mike was a standout for Norm Stewart on the Missouri basketball team from 1986-89. He ranks seventh in program history in steals, eighth in assists and 10th in minutes played.

Stewart was one of many coaches recruiting Mike after he was named all-state at Washington. On Stewart’s first in-home visit, Mike recalled Sunday, “Nellie made him chicken and it was all over after that.”

Lori and Lisa were pillars of the Missouri women’s basketball team in the late 1980s. Both were all-state at Washington, and Lisa was named to the all-Big 8 squad in 1990 and 1991. She ranks third in Tiger history in blocked shots and 10th in rebounds.

“I committed to Missouri to watch his career,” Lisa said Sunday, pointing across the table at Mike. “My sister (Lisa) came from Moberly (Junior College) to be with us.”

Scott and Steve, the eldest siblings to earn scholarships, played basketball at East Central Junior College. Scott went on to Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri S&T) and Steve went on to Benedictine. Mark also played at East Central after earning all-state honors at Washington.

Robin, the eldest daughter, was a track star who set the state high school record in the discus before becoming paralyzed in a car accident. Her discus record held for multiple decades.


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