CHICAGO — He’s 5 foot 6, about 181 pounds and has a list of nicknames as long as his arm. Chicago Bears No. 29 Tarik Cohen is a whole lot of fun to watch on Sundays.
The fourth round draft pick is doing nothing but dazzling fans with his fancy footwork and for a small guy, he has a whole lot of heart on the football field.
He’s also a lot of fun off the field. He likes to dance, does a mean back flip with a trick and loves his mom. He is serious about one thing: football.
He is the one to watch when the bears take the field. He has quickly become a fan favorite.
At 22, the running back loves being underestimated as an athlete.
“I feel like it’s the best thing. That’s what I play the game for-the surprise factor. The wild factor,” he said. “The small guy down the field is making some of the biggest plays.”
In his first season with the NFL, Cohen said he’s always looking for angles on the field. On Oct. 15 in a game against the Ravens, Cohen made history becoming the first Bears running back to throw a touchdown pass since Gale Sayers did it in 1965. He was also the shortest player to do it in 83 years. Cohen wears a size 10-plus glove.
“At the combine, they say I have the hands of a 6 foot 2 guy. So I feel like that is the height I was really supposed to be,” he said.
Tarik’s back flip while catching two footballs at the same time was also the subject of a viral video. It was a trick he did only once.
But it’s his fancy footwork on the field that has become Cohen’s signature.
His mother, Tilwanda Newell was a single mom raising three sons in North Carolina. Life there was never easy. She worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Now, the tables are turned.
“Growing up she showed me the definition of persistence and hard work,” Cohen said. “We didn’t always have the best of things. She would always take less so we can have more. That just motivated me to push through so I can get to where I am now.”
From the beginning this future NFL running back was small. Still, football has always been his game of choice. He picked up a ball when he was seven and hasn’t stopped running since.
“No one ever said I couldn’t do it. But no one ever knew I was going to be a good football player because at first, I wasn’t really that good,” he said. “One of my keen memories was from rec. league. We had lost our first game and I just remember crying on the field and I just knew I was passionate about football from that day on.”
He got good grades in school and stayed out of trouble. His sights always set on the game of football. When it came time for college, he was offered a scholarship to North Carolina A&T. He took it and played hard. In 2017, he was a fourth round draft pick and picked up by the Chicago Bears.
“Walter Payton came from an HBCU, so I really felt connected and that. I was thinking, I have the same opportunity that he had coming from an HBCU to make the same type of impact,” he said.
Because when it’s all over and his football career is in the rearview mirror, Cohen has big plans to give back.
“I want to be a good person outside of football. After I’m done playing football I like to get into philanthropy work. Going to neighborhoods where I grew up in and telling kids it’s possible. And never to give up.”
Cohen says the most shocking thing about moving to Chicago for him is that he is recognized on the street. He can’t believe the celebrity that comes with the job and in such little time.
He’s not superstitious and said he doesn’t get nervous when he takes the field. He is constantly watching game film to calm him down.