COFFMAN LOOK BACK AT FIRST SHRINE BOWL,
LOOKS FORWARD TO NEXT GENERATION OF PLAYERS
One of the Kansas Shrine Bowl's most prominent alums will be in Hays for the 2007, hoping to play a role in helping one or more small town players find football success beyond high school.
Paul Coffman will be teaming up with Ron Freeman to conduct a high school combine, an event primarily for seniors-to-be that is meant to help athletes know how their athletic abilities stack up against other athletes their age. Coffman and Freeman have been conducting similar combines for the past 5 years.
Coffman was one of the first Shrine Bowl players to have both great college and professional football careers. He starred at K-State from 1974-1977, then began an 11-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers (8 years), the Kansas City Chiefs (2 years), and the Minnesota Vikings (1 year).
The Shrine Bowl game is one that's obviously close to Coffman's heart, partly because it gives players from small towns a chance to play with and against players from much bigger communities and school. "Being voted to play in the Shrine Bowl was a highlight of my high school career," he says. "I was a little bit scared and intimidated playing with guys on my team (West) from Wichita, and guys on the other team from Kansas City. I didn't know what to expect, but I worked hard, and ended up starting on both sides of the ball." The East won the initial contest 16-14 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence when the West missed a field goal in the game's closing moments.
Coffman still cherishes the memory of playing in the first Shrine Bowl Game. "To play in the first one was a great honor," he says. "Dave Mize and a lot of other Shriners have kept the game going over the years. I
haven't made every game, but I try to make it back whenever I can to see who the next kid from a small town will be to make it big."
His memories of the first Shrine Bowl game include the annual trip to St. Louis to visit the St. Louis Unit of the Shriners Hospitals for Children. For many years, the teams have flown round trip from Kansas City to St. Louis for the hospital visit. But the first trip was by bus. He says it's the longest bus trip he's ever made--from Salina, Kansas to St. Louis. "We were actually laying in the in the aisles and in the overhead racks, trying to get comfortable and sleep a little bit on that trip. But it was a lot of fun, a great bonding time with the guys."
Like hundreds of Shrine Bowl players after him, visiting the kids at the St. Louis hospital touched Coffman. "When you get selected, you think the game is about you, a chance to showcase your skills, but then you see the kids who are battling, some for their lives. It's very inspiring."
In Hays, Coffman will not only be involved in the evaluation of athletes, he'll be doing some teaching as well. He'll be one of the coaches on hand to work with tight ends and receivers, teaching them to run pass routes and ways to get themselves open. He will also be one of the coaches when the combine participants come together for some seven-on-seven drills towards the end of the event. "We want to give these kids the opportunity to further their careers in college. A lot of kids in western Kansas and eastern Colorado miss out on some of the bigger camps. We want to showcase them with the possibility of getting them scholarships."
Proceeds from the event support the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, a network of 22 hospitals that provide expert, no-cost orthopedic and burn care to children under 18. Children are admitted totally free to Shriners Hospitals for Children without regard for race, religion, nationality, creed, or relationship to a Shriner.
The 2007 Kansas Shrine Bowl will be the most family-friendly ever, with several events taking place during the day. Planned events include a 5K Run for Charity, a day-long Arts and Crafts Fair, a Kid's Fair, the annual Kansas Shrine Bowl Parade, a high school football combine, and a Charity Poker Run that will include cash and prizes.
Advance reserved chairback tickets for the all-star game are $20.00 in advance, $21.00 on game night. Adult general admission tickets are $9.00 in advance, $10.00 on game night. Student tickets (K-12) are $5.00 in advance, $6.00 on game night. Banquet tickets are $20.00, and must be purchased in advance. Additional information and tickets can be purchased through the Shrine Bowl office by calling 1-800-530-5524.