On the court, he is considered an instrumental contributor, dominating and relentless. Off the court, he is simply a fun and lovable guy. His teammates would say that he is the life of the party and his coaches would describe him as the heart and soul of the team.
Senior forward Phil Cofer is making his way back to Donald L. Tucker Civic Center for his final season in garnet and gold. In the midst of preparing for his final season as a Seminole, Cofer took some time to reflect on his time in Tallahassee and what is to come for the 2018-2019 season.
In 2014, Cofer signed with the Seminoles. He had an explosive freshman season as he averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds while starting in 24 of 33 games. His career as a Seminole was proving to be promising until a recurring ankle injury cut his sophomore season short after only 11 games.
The injury continued to haunt Cofer and was eventually found to be more serious than anyone had expected. During surgery in 2016, a bone tumor was found on his foot that required immediate removal.
The tumor was found to be benign, and Cofer was able to begin rehabilitation with hopes of retuning to the court for the 2016-2017 season. Returning to the court was no easy task. Not only was Cofer coming back from a major injury, but he was also competing for playing time and transitioning into the unfamiliar stretch-four role.
Despite having the odds stacked against him, Cofer continued to spend as much time as possible in the gym, working on his game.
His efforts were not in vain as he was able to secure a starting position during the 2017-18 season and helped lead the Seminoles to their first Elite Eight appearance since 1993. He finished the season averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, starting all 35 games for the 23-12 Seminoles.
But this was only the beginning of another battle. Due to his ankle injury cutting Cofer’s sophomore season short, Florida State petitioned the NCAA to get Cofer a medical redshirt year to extend his tenure in garnet and gold.
The ACC was unable to initially grant a waiver for Cofer to player a fifth year at Florida State. According to NCAA rules, in order to qualify for a medical redshirt, a player must not have played in more than 30 percent of their team’s games that season.
Cofer played in 32.4 percent of the games during the 2015-2016 season.
The denial did not deter Cofer or his coaches, and just like with everything else he had endured during his collegiate career, he continued to press forward.
Florida State appealed the denial to the NCAA.
During this period, Cofer was encouraged by his coaches to stay in the gym and trust the process.
Everyone in the Department of Athletics served as a source of support for him both on and off the court.
“I was confident that Phil would be granted a medical redshirt season, and we are very happy to have him back in our lineup for the upcoming season,” said Head Coach Leonard Hamilton.
After more than two months of uncertainty, Cofer’s destiny was finally revealed. On May 25, 2018 he was notified that his appeal had been approved. He is preparing for the 2018-19 season and is ready to make the most of his final season as a Seminole.
“The members of our athletics staff who worked on the appeal were very knowledgeable about the situation and worked very hard to present a strong case. I was very happy for Phil and his family when we received a positive response from the NCAA,” said Hamilton.
His journey to this point has been filled with ups and downs, but neither Cofer nor anyone around him ever doubted that he would end up right here, right now.
“Throughout the entire time, there was no quit in him. It’s easy when things are going bad to just quit, but he just fought through it all,” said senior guard Terance Mann.
No matter his own circumstances, Cofer continuously served as a source of light and leadership for his team.
“It’s definitely been a long journey, but looking back on everything including all the injuries I wouldn’t take anything back,” said Cofer. “With all that I’ve been through, I know that everything happens for a reason.”
Cofer is returning as one of the Seminoles’ most talented, athletic and exciting players.
“Having Phil back as a starter for us this season is a tremendous positive for our team,” said Hamilton.
“When he has been fully healthy during his career, he has been a large part of our success.”
Over the past four years, he has earned numerous NCAA and ACC honors and is on track to have his named etched prominently in the Seminole record book, but Cofer feels no pressure.
“I don’t really pay much attention to it,” said Cofer. “I just go out and play. If I keep doing that, I think that I’ll be fine.”
Going into the 2017-18 season, Cofer and his teammates are all in. The 2017-2018 season was only the third time in program history that FSU made an Elite Eight appearance, and now they are ready to finish what they started.
“We all believe that we should have advanced farther, so we’re definitely coming into this season with a chip on our shoulders,” Cofer said.
Cofer’s teammates are probably the most excited to have their “big brother” on the court with them for one more year.
“It means a lot to have him back this season,” said redshirt freshman RaiQuan Gray. “He gives our team a big boost athletically and leadership-wise.”
Cofer has definitely made a difference both on and off the court during his time at FSU. His resilience is unmatched and his personality is unforgettable. No one knows for certain how this season is going to play out, but there is one thing for sure; Cofer will end his career as a Seminole the same way he navigated through it – with the full support of everyone around him.