Hamilton Tiger Cats

Tommy Joe Coffey - Wide Receiver - 1973-79 - West Texas University

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Players in the CFL often finish their playing careers and disappear from public eye. Many reappear, later, in a somewhat different capacity then when they left. For example, Wally Buono who had a long career for the Montreal Alouettes, developed his playing skills and applied them to coaching. Now he's one of the winningest coaches in League history. However, many, like Tommy Joe Coffey, migrated from the limelight of professional football and venture into a life of alternative livelihood.

 

Tommy Joe, or TJ, retired from football in 1973 and moved on to assert himself as a business professional. TJ told the CFL Insider that he credits his life before and during football with his success after the gridiron:

 

"I believe that my preparation began many years ago when I decided to continue my education and entered West Texas University. While I did go to school on ascholarship, my primary goal was to graduate with a degree. I was married at the time and knew that my responsibilities were such that a job was more important than football. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science, and in the same month signed a contract to play football with the Edmonton Eskimos. Within 6 weeks of arriving in Edmonton, I had a job teaching at Ross Shepherd High School in Edmonton."

 

TJ went on to teach six more years in Edmonton, before he was traded to Hamilton prior to the 1967 season. While in Hamilton, the off-season saw Coffey exchange his textbooks for golf clubs. He explained: "When my playing career was over, I was employed by the golf company and continued in that situation until other new developments caused change. Although sad at the thought of no more football my work day went down in hours for the first time in 19 years".

 

Immediately following football Tommy Joe did not readily settle into retirement'. After all, the shelf life of a football player usually means he is

Tommy Joe Coffey West Texas
  Receiving      
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1959 Edm 14 277 19.8 87 1
1960 Edm 27 532 19.7 65 1
1961 Did Not Play      
1962 Edm 65 951 14.6 59 11
1963 Edm 61 1,104 18.1 79 5
1964 Edm 81 1,142 14.1 72 6
1965 Edm 81 1,286 15.9 65 2
1966 Edm 60 902 15.0 45 2
1967 Ham 42 683 16.3 45 5
1968 Ham 47 800 17.0 83 4
1969 Ham 71 1,110 15.6 68 11
1970 Ham 46 678 14.7 44 5
1971 Ham 28 423 15.1 49 2
1972 Ham 27 432 16.0 37 8
1973 Tor 0 0 0.0 0 0
Total 14 650 10,320 15.9 106 63

adrift by his early thirties. Considered a fossil in the athletic arena, but just entering his productive life in other walks of life. Instead TJ continued his nomadic means, familiar from his playing days, and worked and lived in Vancouver as a Sales Manager for golf equipment. Later he went to Edmonton as the General Manager of a Golf Club, and eventually moved to Hamilton as the Managing Director of a woodworking equipment and machinery company, just for variety of course. He now resides in Burlington, Ontario and owns his own Human Resource Company. Coffey admits that his current job is, "not necessarily what I thought I'd be doing."

 

Now that Tommy has closed the chapter on football emotionally, he is able to remain positive, even appreciate the evolution from professional athlete to professional:

 

Tommy Joe Coffey"Life goes on. Get over it. Of course one misses the life of a professional athlete. The lights are a little brighter while you are playing. Most people enjoy the limelight and opportunities that it might bring. Do I miss the rigors and dictations that accompany the life of a football player? No. After all of the years and time spent in the game, the freedom one has is appreciated. For a lot of years, someone else determined what you did. They determined where you slept, what you ate, when you ate and when you could go home. All of a sudden you have some time. I enjoyed the extra time I had to spend with my family. I enjoyed the opportunity to have the chance to win. I did not just play to play. I played to win. Right or wrong I still have the same approach today. I have no major complaints as to my personal or professional lives. I have sometimes been asked as to why I never continued in the football business in some capacity."

 

Coffey says he tries to keep in touch with former teammates but permits that it is very difficult: "For the most part we all come from different parts of North America. Yes, there are those who are continually in your mind. The ones that are mostly local you see on a somewhat timely basis at functions or other gatherings. One would wish that he could get them all together again for one day. What a pleasure. We all would, today, be better than we were yesterday."

 

Tommy Joe contends that he enjoyed playing the game, only to win. Even 30 years later his zest for victory shines brightly: "To only play was not an option. In a professional life that is the only way to go." The seven time CFL all-star certainly knows about winning. He was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1977 and won the Grey Cup twice with Hamilton in 1967 and 1972.

 

TJ's outlook on life after football and life in general is refreshing. His realistic explanation of the world around him exposes a man who is grateful for what he once had and what he has now: "I am a very positive person but I also realize that all is not a bed of roses. We get some good and some bad. I am happy every morning when I wake up. I have been supremely blessed in what I have been able to do and wish that others could have been as fortunate as I."

 

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