COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Before he was a three-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end, Paul Coffman had to walk on at Kansas State and make the Green Bay Packers' roster as an undrafted free agent.
The path has been a lot smoother for his son. Everyone knows about Chase Coffman, Missouri's athletic, glue-fingered tight end who's almost certain to be a high draft pick next April.
"NFL scouts have be drooling at the bit to get to him," Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel said. "His athletic ability, I think, is underhyped.
"He creates a mismatch no matter who he's up against."
At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Coffman is larger than some defensive linemen. But he has the skill to make leaping one-handed grabs and hurdle countless hapless defenders. It's no surprise Coffman is a leading candidate for the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.
In college at least, better than old dad.
"He made a lot of plays and had a great career in the NFL, but I don't know if he was as athletic as me," Chase Coffman said. "I don't trash talk to him, but I think he would agree.
"I've been blessed to have these opportunities."
Coffman refuses to let Missouri's recent struggles drag him down, either.
The Tigers (5-2) were No. 3 two weeks ago and are No. 16 now after consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and top-ranked Texas, but if anything Coffman has picked up his game. He had 12 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown in the 56-31 loss to the Longhorns, setting career bests for receptions and yards, and had 11 receptions for 104 yards the previous week.
Against Oklahoma State, he turned in perhaps the signature catch of his season -- even if was only good for 9 yards. Daniel said he rewound and viewed the play about 20 times, watching in wonder as Coffman leaped backward and made a one-handed grab against tight coverage near the sideline.
"He looked like Superman," coach Gary Pinkel said. "Honestly, it's one of the greatest catches I've ever seen. You're a lot more accurate quarterback when you're throwing to him. An amazing thing."
Coffman and Martin Rucker were Missouri's two-tight end threat for three seasons. Rucker is now with the Cleveland Browns, and it's Coffman's show. His 24 touchdowns and 213 receptions are school career records and he's among the nation's leaders this year with 56 receptions, a 12.4-yard average and four touchdowns, with four 100-yard games.
He trails only James Casey of Rice's 61 catches among tight ends.
Last winter, Coffman was among five Missouri juniors to be evaluated by the NFL. He had three good reasons to stick around: He was hampered much of 2007 by bone spurs in an ankle, he wanted to finish his career with his recruiting class, and he'll graduate in December with a degree in hotel-restaurant management.
"I don't think I would have performed as well as I would have liked in any pre-draft stuff," Coffman said. "Also just the fact that these are all the guys I came in with my freshman year.
"I'd like to also get my degree, because you only go through college once."
Coffman also is intent on maximizing the final half-season of his college career, beginning with Saturday's homecoming game against Colorado. Against the Buffaloes he's totaled 15 catches for 122 yards and five touchdowns in three games.
"His highlight reel is very impressive," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said. "He's not afraid to run over you or jump over you, or run around you."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)