DETROIT (AP) —Lions tough guy passes.
Mike Cofer, a Pro Bowl linebacker who played a decade with the Detroit Lions and is second on the team’s career list in sacks, has died. He was 58.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – JANUARY 05: Phil Cofer #0 of the Florida State Seminoles shoots over Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on January 5, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

The Lions said Cofer died Thursday. Cofer’s son Phil plays basketball for Florida State. The school said he found out about his father’s death after the Seminoles’ victory over Vermont in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. Chuck Walsh, a Florida State spokesman, said Mike Cofer had been dealing with a long illness.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – MARCH 14: Phil Cofer #0 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a shot against the Virginia Cavaliers during their game in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 14, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

 

Cofer played 123 games with the Lions from 1983-92. He’s the only linebacker in team history to reach eight sacks in a season. He did it four times.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 2: Quarterback Eric Hipple #17 of the Detroit Lions breaks his leg during a 20-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on October 2, 1988, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)

“Mike was the definition of the perfect football player,” former Lions quarterback Eric Hipple said in a statement. “His attitude matched his ability and he gave 100 percent in everything he did. The same goes for his care and attention for fellow players, fans and people in general. He brought smiles and joy to those he interacted with and was not only a great player, but also a wonderful man.”

A Knoxville, Tennessee, native, Cofer played at Tennessee. He was drafted by the Lions in the third round in 1983, and he was a member of the team that went to the NFC title game at the end of the 1991 season. He received Pro Bowl honors during the 1988 season.
He finished his career with 62 ½ sacks.

15 Sep 1996: Head coach Wayne Fontes of the Detroit Lions during their 24-10 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport

 

“I was truly blessed to have had the chance to coach Mike,” former Lions coach Wayne Fontes said. “He had such tremendous character. When you heard people talking about a player who always gave 100 percent, it was Mike.”

20 SEP 1992: WAYNE FONTES, HEAD COACH OF THE Detroit LIONS ON THE SIDELINES DURING THEIR LOSS TO THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart/ALLSPORT

 

Phil Cofer missed Florida State’s game Thursday with an injured right foot. Coach Leonard Hamilton said he will remain with the team for a second-round game Saturday against Murray State.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – JANUARY 12: Head coach Leonard Hamilton of the Florida State Seminoles looks on against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half at Donald L. Tucker Center on January 12, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Hamilton called Mike Cofer “one of the most competitive human beings that has ever played in the NFL.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 24: Head coach Leonard Hamilton speaks with CJ Walker #2 of the Florida State Seminoles against the Michigan Wolverines during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament West Regional Final at Staples Center on March 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

 

“He is a guy who had to endure an unbelievably challenging debilitating disease that mentally and emotionally was draining in itself, but the physical toll it took on his body is beyond anything that you possibly could explain,” he said. “And he never complained. He always faced it every day with the heart of a lion, with tremendous amount of courage, and he passed that same mental and emotional aspect over to his son, Phil.”

“He always challenged Phil, and he always encouraged him to play with the heart of a lion, and without making any excuses for anything at all. And Phil’s attitude has been as good as anyone that I’ve ever coached in my whole coaching career.”
Cofer is survived by his wife, Reba, and sons Michael and Phil.
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