It’s been a long ride for former Florida Gators defensive lineman Joe Cohen to get to where he is now – happily married with a loving wife, three young daughters and plenty of football years ahead of him. From losing a best friend at an early age and going through the trials and tribulations of college to being surrounded by family and looking ahead while the NFL tries to settle a lockout that seemingly has no end in sight, Cohen reflected about the path he took to get to where he is as well as his hopes for the future. Celebrating his 26th birthday on Monday, Cohen is trying to get in the best shape of his life and continue his NFL career while supporting his family and doing plenty of good for the community.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Before deciding to enroll at Florida, you grew up with and were teammates with Reggie Nelson at Palm Bay High School. Did you two always plan to go to college together or was it something that just worked out that way?
JOE COHEN: “Me and Reggie, back in like the 10th grade, we made a pact together. We ripped a dollar bill in half and made a pact that we’d stick together through all the hard times. We both ended up deciding to go to Florida together. Florida was always an option, but it wasn’t always our leader. We took our visits. One weekend it was LSU, one weekend it was Florida State, one weekend it was Miami, and one weekend it was Florida. We really had to sit down and make a decision after all the recruiting was done, after we could sit down and think ourselves. Florida felt more like home. Miami was too big of a city, LSU was unfamiliar, and FSU was rebuilding with the school and football team. Florida just felt more like home. I felt like that was a place I could call home for four-to-five years, and it was close enough to both of our kids where we could visit every weekend if need be. That played a big part in the decision making, too, because both of us had daughters coming out of high school.”
AS: Are you and Reggie still close friends?
JC: “As a matter of fact, I just spoke with him this morning actually. He’s in Jacksonville working out at The Hit Center and, like me, waiting for the lockout to be lifted and see what the next move is.”
AS: Since you brought up the lockout, what is your mindset right now? How are you approaching the NFL lockout and, of course, making sure you are employed
JC: “Right now my mindset is back to college mode, getting back hungry, like a rebuilding process. I’m trying to get back to the athletic ability, size and speed I had in college with the technique I possess now from being in the league. Right now I’m training with my brother-in-law, a younger guy who just turned 20. He’s in there kicking my butt, and I’m trying to keep up with him. But it’s really helping me a lot getting that hunger back. Where he’s at now is where I was five years ago – trying to get to the NFL. He’s really helping me out a lot.”
Cohen also discusses head coaches Ron Zook and Urban Meyer, the 2006 national title team, his fantastic football camp supporting the James McGriff Foundation, whether or not student-athletes should be paid, and if he still loves Disney movies.
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Photo Credit: Mark Serota