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Ex-Super Bowl kicker returns to big stage with SLAM Academy

Updated November 17, 2022 - 10:51 pm

It has been nearly 33 years since Mike Cofer kicked field goals from 41 and 32 yards in Super Bowl XXIII. Since he was nervously pacing the sideline at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, watching Joe Montana drive the San Francisco 49ers 92 yards in 11 plays before throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with time running out for a 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Thanks to the internet, Cofer’s players at SLAM Academy are mostly aware he participated in one of the most memorable Super Bowls. And the one the following year, in which the 49ers destroyed the Denver Broncos 55-10 in New Orleans.

But “it would be like me talking about Red Grange — leather helmet, the whole deal, ” Cofer, 58, said of how his football past is perceived by the teenagers that were gathering for practice earlier this week.

After performing on the game’s biggest stage, Cofer will return to an NFL stadium on Monday afternoon. He says he couldn’t be more excited about leading the Bulls onto the Las Vegas Raiders’ field turf at Allegiant Stadium for the Nevada Class 3A state championship game against Truckee.

On Tuesday, he was coaching high school kids for the biggest game in which most ever will play at a city park in Henderson because SLAM Academy doesn’t have a football field.

Practice in the park

Cofer has been the coach at SLAM — an acronym for Sports Leadership and Management, though it also offers college prep courses in business, math, science and other fields — since it started a football program five years ago. The pursuit of a field it can call its own is “a daily grind.”

“We always seem to have something in the works,” he said about having to play home games at Eldorado, Las Vegas High, Foothill and Desert Pines while seeking a more permanent solution.

The Bulls don’t have a dedicated locker room, either, which would explain the equipment bags that were scattered on a pockmarked yellow-brown patch of Bermuda grass at the Russell Road Recreation Complex.

A steady stream of traffic on the busy thoroughfares outside the park sometimes made it difficult to hear what Cofer was telling his players. But since the city park backs directly up to SLAM’s side door, it’s a doable situation, if not the the ideal one.

“We don’t even have a field (so) I would have been grateful to play anywhere for a state title,” said Bulls’ senior running back and linebacker Daniel Nevil. “I’ve never experienced anything like this, playing in a dome. Awesome, awesome, this is going to be a great experience.”

Following the script

The Super Bowl victory over the Bengals was the last game Bill Walsh coached in the NFL. But Cofer insisted with a smile that him missing a 19-yard field goal (that still stands as a Super Bowl record for the shortest miss) in the second quarter had nothing to do with it.

“I guess I can relate some of the experience from the mental side, but I wasn’t out there knocking heads like those other guys were,” the former North Carolina State specialist said about how having played for one of the game’s great masterminds might help him prepare high school players for their shining moment on Monday.

Cofer said Brad Talich also was a big influence on him becoming a high school football coach. Cofer and former Green Bay Packers’ linebacker Brian Noble were assistants at Coronado under Talich, and it was then that Cofer caught the coaching bug.

It became a new hobby that turned into a avocation for Cofer, who grew up a NASCAR fan in Charlotte and drove in several Truck Series races after meeting Cup Series star Davey Allison.

But the former kicker (and soccer player) hasn’t totally forgotten his football roots. He said he even has a small tribute of sorts planned for his former NFL coach at Monday’s state title game.

“We’ll try to script our first 10 or 12 plays,” Cofer said of the stratagem made famous by Walsh. “But whether we stick to the script, who knows?”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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