By ADAM PRUIETT
Northwest Florida Daily News
FORT WALTON BEACH – While growing up, Glen Coffee would always tune in to College GameDay on Saturdays and watch highlights of college football’s premier players all while dreaming of one day becoming one of them.
During his breakout junior year at the University of Alabama, the former Fort Walton Beach star finally joined their elite company.
“(This season) gave me a chance to live some of my dream,” Coffee said.
In a sterling season where he was one of the primary pieces in the Tide’s stunning turnaround, Coffee emerged from a crowded backfield to become Alabama’s top running back and, when all was said and done, he finished as one of the Southeastern Conference’s top players.
And while Coffee began receiving national notoriety this season, the tail end has come with heavy praise from the local variety, as he has been named the All Sports Association, Inc.’s 2009 Collegiate Award winner.
“My goal before the start of the season was to glorify God and getting this award is another chance to do that,” Coffee said.
The Collegiate Award is the third honor announced so far by the Fort Walton Beach-based All Sports Association. The organization has named Florida quarterback Tim Tebow as the Wuerffel Trophy winner and PGA golfer and former Milton star Boo Weekley as the Professional Award winner.
“(Coffee’s) on the field accomplishments and strong faith are well known and we are proud to recognize a local high school player who went on to do so well at Alabama,” All Sports Association President Mike Coupe’ said.
An All-SEC performer, Coffee ranked second in the conference with 1,383 yards rushing and his 117-yard per game average in league contests was tops. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound standout collected 11 total touchdowns and helped lead Alabama to a No. 1 ranking for most of the season, a 12-2 overall finish and a berth in the Sugar Bowl, where he had a 4-yard touchdown grab.
Coffee said there were drawbacks to his newfound fame – people trying to get close to him out of self interest – but he enjoyed being in a more prominent position to become a role model.
“This season enabled me to reach kids I might not have been able to reach before,” he said.
Coffee would like to attend the All Sports Association’s 40th Annual Awards Banquet on Feb. 20 at the Emerald Coast Conference Center, but that’s also the first day of the NFL Combine and he expects to be invited. Coffee announced Friday his intentions to forgo his senior year at Alabama and enter the NFL draft.
“It was (a tough decision), but in the end I prayed about it often,” Coffee said. “I followed my spirit, and I felt like it was time for me to go.”