On the surface, Tarik Cohen’s journey to the NFL journey is a warm and fuzzy tale with major upstart underdog vibes.
It’s stuff for the storybooks: A 5-6, 191-pound running back making it out of small town North Carolina, standing out at a HBCU during his collegiate years, making an impression on Bears scouts to make him a fourth-round pick in 2017, and eventually growing into a popular playmaker who earns All-Pro recognition as a returner en route to a multi-million dollar second contract with the team that drafted him.
But in “Letter to My Younger Self” written at the Players Tribune, Cohen’s reflections serve as a reminder that no one ever really knows what’s happening behind the scenes. It is a reminder why one should never run to irresponsibly dunk on an athlete on social media. A refresher course that there are humans with real-life issues they are dealing with. Ultimately, Cohen’s storytelling in writing to his younger self presents a reflective piece that puts so much in perspective.
Cohen reflects on a series of life-altering events in his life. And in graphic detail, too. There is so much emotion in the piece, which is mind-blowing as we think of how Cohen was trying to handle it all — and all while he was trying to make it on his own so he could take care of his family as he promised. We knew Cohen was dealing with a lot last year. A knee injury that turned out to be more serious than the original diagnosis of an ACL tear. The death of his twin brother, and later, the passing of his younger brother. It’s a lot. And I hope you give it a read, then reflect on it.
Cohen, a player who brought joy with his play and personality, has gone through a mental gauntlet. And he is still pushing forward. I hope he and his family come out so much better on the other side.
This is an emotional piece of work.