Every NFL team had a chance to take Tarik Cohen in the 2017 NFL Draft, some even three and four times, but it was the Bears who finally took a chance in the fourth round on the diminutive running back from a small school in North Carolina, 117 picks after they took Mitch Trubisky from the University of North Carolina. So far, Cohen has been a steal.
In his pro debut against the Atlanta Falcons, Cohen had five rushes for 66 yards, eight receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown and three punt returns for 45 yards. Cohen’s 158 total yards was a Bears record for a rookie in an opener. Quite an accomplishment considering he was in the game for less than half (42 percent) of the snaps.
Here are five things you need to know about Cohen:
Only one college wanted Cohen. Like every other college football coach, North Carolina A&T’s Rod Broadway thought Cohen, 5-6, 173 pounds, was too small, even for for the MEAC Conference. An assistant coach, though, convinced Broadway otherwise.
Broadway told The News & Observer: “I read this quote Bill Parcells said one time which said, ‘Err on the side of production, not size.’ So I went and met with him, and he was bigger than what I thought on tape. And we ended up offering him a scholarship and he signed and the rest is history.”
Cohen became the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards and is the only three-time offensive player of the year in that conference.
Since 1997, Cohen is just the second player from North Carolina A&T to be drafted. The Packers drafted center Junius Coston in 2005.
Cohen was the smallest player at the NFL combine. But the tiny back didn’t let that stop him from standing out. Cohen ran consecutive 40-yard dashes of 4.42 seconds. No other player ran that low twice.
In addition, Cohen showed off his huge hands. Only one running back and five wide receivers had bigger hands than Cohen’s 10-1/8 mitts.
Cohen is nicknamed “The Human Joystick.” Cohen says the nickname came from former Chiefs star Dante Hall, another small, elusive cutback runner. The former North Carolina A&T star said someone made a highlight video of him on YouTube and the name has stuck.
Cohen is better known for another video. In 2015, Cohen posted a video of himself doing a backflip and catching a football one-handed at the same time. Then he really got crazy. Cohen did it again, but this time he caught two footballs from a Jugs machine in each hand.
Needless to say, the internet ran slow that day. The video was featured ESPN’s top plays and got Cohen an invite to the Bristol headquarters.
“When I first did the back-flip catches, people were thinking, ‘Is he a football player or can he just do back-flip catches?’” Cohen told The Sporting News. “People have to go research me. Then they could see that I really can play football.”
Cohen doesn’t want a long NFL career. You had better enjoy his insane moves while you can, because Cohen doesn’t want to stick around long in the NFL.
Cohen told SB Nation: “I feel like I want to play at least three years in the league, that’s the average. I want to meet the average, get a good name for myself, and then take off in marketing and then do a lot of philanthropy work.”
If Sunday’s debut is any indication, he’ll have no problem taking off in marketing.