The Texas commit has an extraordinary toughness and determination that sets him apart.
By Greg Riddle 7:19 PM on Sep 15, 2020 Dallas Morning News
KENNEDALE — JD Coffey was in pain, as debilitating cramps turned his calf muscles into knots and made it difficult for Kennedale’s All-American free safety to move.
Coffey walked gingerly on the sideline when he wasn’t busy receiving medical attention Friday night, but the Texas pledge wasn’t about to come out of the game as Kennedale staged a dramatic rally in its season opener against Sunnyvale.
The senior has spent his life overcoming adversity, growing up without his father around. His older brother, one of his biggest fans and the reason he started playing football, is now incarcerated in federal prison.
Coffey became the top-ranked safety in Texas by developing an extraordinary toughness and determination that sets him apart.
That was instilled in him by the single mother who raised him while working two jobs. It was learned as Coffey helped raise his two young nieces in his brother’s absence. It was taught by members of the Kennedale community, who made sacrifices to help Coffey in athletics, and in life.
“His story truly is that it takes a community to raise a kid these days,” said Coffey’s mother, Alexys Schwartz. “Getting JD to where he needs to go, to all the games and practices, I had a great support system.”
Coffey was one of the most coveted recruits in the state, earning 32 scholarship offers, and this is the second time in five years that Class 4A Kennedale has had the state’s top-ranked recruit at a defensive position. The other was Ohio State signee Baron Browning, a five-star linebacker who led Kennedale to the state semifinals as a senior in 2016.
The following year, Coffey did even better than that, starting as a freshman on the first Kennedale team to reach a state championship game.
“Coming up from the junior high, we knew he had some really great skills. I told him we were going to start him on the JV, and then we’ll see where it goes from there,” said Kennedale coach Richard Barrett, whose team lost to Carthage in the 2017 Class 4A Division I title game. “After a couple of practices and one scrimmage, it was like, ‘OK, I’ve seen enough.’ He’s been a starter ever since.”
Coffey committed to UT over Oregon and defending national champion LSU, and he joined a recruiting class that is ranked 15th in the nation by 247Sports.
He plans to graduate early so he can enroll at Texas in January, and recruiting expert Mike Roach compares him to UT defensive back Caden Sterns, who was named to the 2020 preseason all-Big 12 team.
According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, wide receiver/kick returner Cedric James is the only Kennedale player to ever play in the NFL, appearing in five games for the Minnesota Vikings in 2002.
Roach says Coffey can become the second, with 247Sports projecting him as a mid-round NFL draft pick before he even starts his college career.
“He has the athletic ability, he has the technique,” Roach said. “I’m interested to see how his athleticism goes up once he gets in a college strength program.”
Plenty of help
Coffey recorded the 15th interception of his career on the final play of the first half Friday, leaping to grab a pass near the goal line, and the Under Armour All-American finished with 11 tackles.
But the four-star recruit isn’t just an all-state defensive back — he returns kickoffs and punts and takes repetitions at quarterback every day in practice behind starter Jeremiah Myers.
With his legs locking up, the 6-1, 185-pound senior willed himself to make a big play early in the fourth quarter, returning a punt 34 yards to set up the touchdown that gave Kennedale its first lead of the game.
“He’s a baller,” Barrett said. “He just competes. He doesn’t like to lose at anything.”
Still, it took help from others — a fumble recovery by sophomore Kameron Sallis that gave Kennedale the ball back with less than four minutes remaining, and a 22-yard field goal by Aidan Birr as time expired — for Kennedale to beat Sunnyvale 28-27. The game mirrored Coffey’s life.
His mother works 12-hour shifts as a respiratory therapist and holds down another job as a project manager who mentors youths and those in the welfare system. Schwartz takes off Fridays so she can attend her son’s games.
“She has always shown me the right way,” Coffey said. “She works hard, and that’s why I work so hard.”
Coffey’s father hasn’t been a true part of his life since Coffey was 8 or 9, Schwartz said. She and Coffey declined to discuss his brother’s prison situation, although Schwartz said the boys still have a strong relationship and talk regularly.
“He doesn’t want to live the same life his brother and his dad lived,” Schwartz said. “We always talk about what you have right now, appreciate it, because you could lose it tomorrow.
“If I have taught him anything, it is to always be humble and work for everything you want in life, because things aren’t handed to you. I believe that is what he lives by.”
Coffey has made the most of the chance to help raise his brother’s two daughters, ages 3 and 1.
“They’re my world,” Coffey said. “I see them basically every day.”
The families of teammates have treated Coffey like he was part of their family.
Amanda Dickens, whose son Junior Seay plays defensive tackle for Kennedale, has been helping Schwartz since their sons began playing sports together as they were starting elementary school.
“He’s like my son,” Dickens said. “He would go on family vacations with us. We always fed each other’s kids. When they were in Little League, I would take them to practice, pick them up. They would do the same for me. You name it, we’ve done it for each other.
“My kids have their dad. It makes me want more for him. He deserves it.
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