College Sports

Former Bunn runner Tarik Cohen stars for N.C. A&T

North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen (28) runs for one of his three touchdowns during a 41-34 win against Alcorn State in the Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Dec. 19, 2015. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen (28) runs for one of his three touchdowns during a 41-34 win against Alcorn State in the Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Dec. 19, 2015. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS) TNS

It was just another day at the office for N.C. A&T senior running back Tarik Cohen.

The former Bunn High School star rushed for 221 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns – the first for 59 yards, the second for 84 yards – as the Aggies dismantled Delaware State 45-14 Saturday. His 84-yard touchdown run marked the fourth time this year that he has scored a touchdown of 80 yards or more. He leads FCS in rushing touchdowns (17) and is second in yards (1,436) and yards per carry (8.2).

Cohen stands just 5 feet 6, 173 pounds, but has been putting up these types of numbers his entire college career. He is one of the best players in college football.

Cohen will lead A&T (9-1, 7-0) against N.C. Central (8-2, 7-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Durham as the teams meet for the third straight year with the MEAC title on the line.

Humble beginnings

As a junior at Bunn, Cohen helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-3 record and a third-round finish in the playoffs. In two years on the varsity team, he put up great numbers but his small size scared off schools.

“I watched him in high school, and he was just too small,” A&T head coach Rod Broadway said. “And Coach [Trei] Oliver wouldn’t let it die and would say take a look at this guy again.

“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.”

A&T was Cohen’s lone scholarship offer.

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.

N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway

His first college game was against Appalachian State, and he carried the ball three times for 9 yards. As the season went on, he received more carries and made more of an impact.

He began to become Tarik Cohen on Oct. 12, 2013, when he carried the ball 22 times for 180 yards and a touchdown against Hampton. He followed that up two weeks later with a 32-carry, 210-yard, three-touchdown performance against Florida A&M. Cohen was named MEAC Rookie of the Year after finishing the season with 195 carries for 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns.

Rock star

“I can’t wait to meet Tarik.”

That is what one little boy said while waiting outside the visitor’s locker room at Delaware State.

Cohen has become somewhat of a phenomenon.

People wait to meet and take pictures with him after games, particularly on the road. This week he came to the weekly Aggie Coaches Luncheon and was mobbed by fans.

“It makes me feel good because I used to be that little boy,” Cohen said. “I like the exposure that it gives to North Carolina A&T. It feels good going to the grocery store and people knowing who (we) are.”

Quite a bit of this exposure began about a year and a half ago when Cohen was recorded catching footballs off the Jugs machine while doing back flips. This was noticed by ESPN where it subsequently appeared on Top 10 Plays and ultimately earned him an invite to the ESPN campus.

“The experience was like no other,” Cohen said. “The ESPN campus is like a college campus. And while I was walking around the campus they told me that Lil’ Wayne had tweeted about me and that was a surreal moment.”

Former Duke star and Washington Redskins second-year wide receiver Jamison Crowder had glowing remarks for Cohen.

“Yeah I follow him a lot, he’s definitely one of the top guys playing college football right now,” Crowder said a month ago on the national sports talk radio program “From the Press Box to Press Row.” “And I say that Division I-AA or Division I. What he does out there on the field, it’s crazy, it’s amazing.”

A&T was shown on ESPN for five straight weeks, in part because of Cohen.

Tarik is special

Last year, in the first-ever Celebration Bowl played before a nationally televised audience on ABC, Cohen rushed for 297 yards and three touchdowns. He became the all-time leading rusher in MEAC history on Oct. 6 against Hampton at Aggie Stadium when he rushed for 200 yards and broke the record on a 62-yard touchdown run. For his career he has rushed for 5,467 yards and 55 touchdowns and will have at least one more game remaining regardless if the Aggies win or lose against rival N.C. Central on Saturday.

“Tarik is special,” are the three words that Broadway uses continuously. So does his former track coach and current Bunn football coach David Howle.

Broadway continued: “He’s a big part of why we have the program on the rise. Not only is he a great football player, he’s a top-class individual, as well.”

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