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Cohen making smooth transition into NFL

Posted Aug 17, 2017

Running back Tarik Cohen's impressive performance in the Bears' preseason opener empowered the rookie fourth-round pick with confidence as he returned to the practice field this week.

Tarik Cohen wears a size 10 shoe. If the Bears rookie wore a nine, he probably would have had a 92-yard touchdown run in last Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Broncos.

The electrifying 5-6, 181-pounder took a handoff from quarterback Mike Glennon late in the first quarter and bounced outside to the left. Cohen eluded one tackler and then deflected a blow from safety Justin Simmons with a 360-degree spin move before racing up the sideline.

Tarik Cohen
Tarik Cohen nearly turned this play into a 92-yard touchdown against the Broncos, but the rookie running back stepped out of bounds.

It was the type of video game-like maneuver that earned Cohen the nickname “The Human Joystick” at North Carolina A&T, where he became the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards.

There was nothing between Cohen and the end zone except green grass, but the play was blown dead because he had completed his spin by stepping out of bounds with just the tip of his left foot.

“I caught myself and was like, ‘Oh, that would have been crazy,’” Cohen said. “That would have been amazing playing in my first game in the NFL to make a big play on that level.”

The fourth-round pick rushed for 39 yards on seven carries, and although he was inches away from a monster outing on the stat sheet, Cohen’s debut performance empowered him with confidence as he returned to the practice field this week at Halas Hall.

“It put a bigger chip on my shoulder,” Cohen said. “I’d been in a game; I’ve seen what I can do. I was almost there on a breakaway run. So next time in practice I was like, ‘I’ve got to keep pushing to get better.’”

Cohen’s attitude is only one of the reasons he’s been embraced by his new teammates.

“Tarik’s always been a beast; I’m glad we’re on the same team,” said rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. “He’s fearless, man. I’ve always said it’s all about heart. You’ve got a bunch of measurables, but it’s all about heart and that’s what he does out there and plays with.

“He’s fearless running the ball and he can take it the distance any given snap. It’s tough for me because if I hand it off to him I want to watch him run, but I’ve got to carry out my fakes and stuff like that. He’s a great teammate and what I love about him is he always practices hard. No one is outworking him. He’s practicing hard and he loves being out here playing this game.”

Cohen’s fearless demeanor comes from his desire to improve and succeed.

“I feel like it’s my will to want to be better and to want to be a good player for my team,” he said. “I’m not going to let anything stop me, any obstacle. I’m going to try to overcome that.”

Cohen believes his moxie can be traced to a childhood spent constantly competing with his twin brother, Tyrell. “You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every day when you’ve got a twin brother,” Cohen said. “I feel that’s where I get it from.”

Their relationship hasn’t clearly changed a whole lot. After Cohen was selected by the Bears, he left his draft party with his brother to go do an interview on North Carolina A&T’s football field. When it was over, Tyrell challenged Tarik to a race.

“Right after the interview he was like, ‘Man, I still think I’m faster than you. Let’s race.’" Tarik said "We got on the field, took off our shoes, barefoot, and raced down the field.”

While Tyrell was born two minutes before Tarik, that order was reversed that night. Even in the rematch. “Oh yeah, I won,” Tarik said. “A couple of times.”