Northern Illinois defensive end Jake Coffman has changed his mind.
After telling coach Jerry Kill in January that he was leaving the program to focus on graduating and beginning his post-football career, Coffman, one of NIU’s best defensive players, missed football and has opted to return.
“I thought I was ready to be done with it, but I realized that after 18 years of playing a sport that I love, I wasn’t ready to quit yet,” Coffman said in a statement released by the school. “Right after the season, I thought I did everything that I wanted to do with [football], and then [a couple months later] I talked to my father and grandfather, and they pointed out that I finish everything that I start; and why not football? That was the first time they had weighed in on it, and that hit me.
“I spent a whole week thinking about it. I talked to Coach Kill and he was receptive [to me coming back]. As soon as I got the green light from him that it was an option to come back, I wanted to. I talked to the players and coaches, and they were receptive to it and here I am.”
Coffman played both defensive end and defensive tackle last season and finished the season with 39 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He also was responsible for a 79-yard interception return against Western Michigan, which was one of the defensive highlights of the 2009 season.
Following last season, the Touchdown Club of Columbus awarded Coffman its 2009 Male Athlete of the Year Award. He was also selected as the defensive MVP by his teammates.
Coffman joined the Huskies as a 22-year-old freshman in 2006 after serving in the Marine Corps out of high school. He completed two tours of duty in the Middle East and rose to the rank of corporal. When he returned to his native Illinois, he decided to walk on to the NIU football team. Coffman’s background has made him respected as one of the team’s leaders.
His return means that Northern Illinois will have 11 defensive players with starting experience returning in 2011. The Huskies ranked first in the Mid-American Conference in total defense and 30th nationally.
“It is great for our football team to have a young man like Jake Coffman decide to remain in our program for another year,” Kill said. “He brings instant respect among our players and is an extra boost to our defense. We are thrilled he has decided to return.”