Workpeh Kofa runs down field against Marshall. Photo by Chris Crews

After a late start to the sport, receiver Workpeh Kofa has contributed on the field for the 49ers since his freshman season.

Kofa was a late bloomer when it came concentrating on playing football. He took up the sport in eighth grade, but the pigskin always came in second to basketball. It wasn’t until Kofa’s junior year at Independence high school that he started to look seriously at football. Once he gave the game his all, he reaped the rewards on the field.

“I started to develop in football and it became more natural. When I started taking it more seriously, I saw more results on the field,” Kofa said.

In his junior season at the high school level, he was named the Offensive MVP after having 604 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. At the conclusion of his high school career, Kofa had over 1,500 career receiving yards and twenty touchdowns. The three-star prospect received offers from schools including Appalachain State, Louisville, Ball State an Toledo. Another names being tossed in the hat for Kofa: the Charlotte 49ers.

Charlotte wasn’t a new face in the recruiting world for Independence players. Just a couple of years earlier, the 49ers recruited another receiver from the program by the name of Austin Duke. Though they shared the same field in high school, the pair of receivers were not close until Kofa began his recruting process.

“It’s funny because in high school, me and Austin barely talked, we never hung out,” Kofa said. People might have thought we were close then, but we didn’t actually get close until I got here and kind of when I was getting recruited here. It’s kind of weird and funny now that I look back at it.”

With the different options presented to Kofa for his collegiate career, the recruiting process for the now 6-foot-1, 206 pound receiver was intense.

“That whole thing was just so crazy. If I could give advice to any high school kids doing it now, I would tell them to take their time with it, just be smart about it and go somewhere you’re comfortable. That’s what I did,” Kofa said.

One of the major factors for creating the warm atmosphere in the Queen City was coach Phil Ratliff.

“Coach Ratliff had a big influence, I was very comfortable with coach Ratliff. I don’t want to say I had a problem trusting coaches, but I want to be somewhere I know I’m comfortable and somebody is going to watch my back through tough times,” Kofa said.

After Ratliff’s passing, Kofa said “his presence is still here, you can feel it because everything is family based here. Everyone has to look out for each other, especially after that.”

After serving a redshirt season in 2014, Kofa saw the field in all 12 games during the 2015 slate. After adjusting the needs of the team, Kofa ended the season with 17 catches for 177 yards.

“There’s definitely been a lot I had to learn, especially my first year. I had to tell myself to be ready any moment because I never knew when I was going to go in,” Kofa said.

At the start of the 2016 season, veteran receiver Trent Bostick was sidelined for all games after a concussion prior to the first contest of the year. This opened the door for Kofa and teammate T.L. Ford II to step up and fill the void.

“I’ve always had confidence in my game and I always see myself as a number one receiver no matter what I’m doing,” Kofa said. “But I did have to step up from the reps I got from my freshman year to my sophomore year. I feel like I did a good job in that and I feel like I showed that I can be a number one receiver.”

Kofa made an impact on the field for the 49ers during his second season. He was third on the team after converting 27 catches for 329 yards. He led the 49ers offense with five receiving touchdowns.

His successes carried over into the 2017 season. Kofa leads all Charlotte receivers with 265 yards so far this season. His longest reception was 44 yards against North Carolina A&T. Against the Aggies, Kofa put up a career-high of 110 yards.

After 38 yards against Marshall, the receiver registered over 750 career yards. His 771 yards make him the fourth Charlotte player to eclipse 750 career yards.

“I didn’t know until after the game. The goal is always a thousand yards each season, I feel like every receiver should reach for that. I’m grateful, but I know I can do way more than what I have been doing. That’s what I’m aiming to work towards, just being more productive, being the number one target I know I can be.”

With a dismal 0-7 season so far for the 49ers, leadership is needed on the field for Charlotte. Kofa looks to lead his teammates, not just by his words, but through his actions on the field and in the weight room.

“I consider myself a leader, but not a vocal leader. I’ve always been more of a show your leadership in your play, how you practice and being consistent in everything you do. It’s something I truly believe in.”

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.