VIDEO: Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Joe Cohen First Team All-State, BCS National Champ
By Charles Parker // May 8, 2015
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Joe Cohen played football at all levels – offense and defense for the Palm Bay Pirates, starting defensive line for a Florida Gator National Championship team under Urban Meyer, and then with four teams in the NFL: San Francisco, Miami, Oakland and Detroit.
JOE COHEN – 2015 INDUCTEE
• Parade Prep All-American
• First Team All-State
• BCS National Champion
DOMINANT TWO-WAY PLAYER
Joe Cohen played football at all levels – offense and defense for the Palm Bay Pirates, starting defensive line for a Florida Gator National Championship team under Urban Meyer, and then with four teams in the NFL: San Francisco, Miami, Oakland and Detroit.
He tackled future Hall of Famer Brett Favre for his first recorded NFL sack.
Cohen was a dominating player on both sides of the ball at Palm Bay High.
He was named to the Parade All-America team, selected a SuperPrep All-American and was considered the nation’s No. 1 fullback by the publication.
Cohen was first-team all-state in Class 4A and led the Pirates to the 2002 state championship.
He currently coaches for the up and coming Viera High Hawks.
With a resume like that, one might think that Cohen is totally football-focused. But football is not the be-all, end-all for Cohen.
“I’m realizing life is way bigger than the game of football,” Cohen said.
“I want to be remembered for the things that translate off the field as well. Being a hard worker, a great husband, a great father, and a great man of the community – every day I work on those things.”
In fact, the moment in his life that changed him forever happened a couple of years before he even began playing high school football.
On April 17, 1998 – when Cohen was in seventh grade – his best friend’s older brother, James McGriff, a local football hero (and now Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer) who would soon be headed to Gainesville, drowned.
Cohen told a Gainesville paper, “He really motivated me in a lot of ways. His attitude, the way he carried himself. James showed me that there is hope for a small-town kid.
“And what James brought to our community, for Brevard (County) period, was publicity. And it’s not through his death; it’s through his actions on the field and off the field. He was an All-American defensive and offensive player, and he was just a great person.”
When Cohen began playing for Palm Bay and then later when he went to Gainesville himself to play for the Gators, he was a defensive lineman who wore a running back’s number 20 – in memory of McGriff.
Cohen’s legacy is one of family and friends first – giving credit to them for his successes and for helping him get past many obstacles.
“Getting drafted in 2007 was one of those moments that I will never forget,” Cohen said.
“I was able to spend that day with my mother, father, brother, wife-to-be and my beautiful oldest daughter. Their sacrifices that they all put in over the years – along with mine – had finally paid off.”
Despite the ups and downs of life and career, Cohen insists that without support, he would not have made the advances he did.
“I pulled strength from my mother and the courage and will to keep going from my wife and kids,” he said.
“I faced hurdles from high school until my last day in the NFL, but I don’t believe I would have made it through without my parents, wife, kids, and siblings.”
Though football has been his profession for most of his adult life, Cohen knows that it does not really define him.
“Though my (professional) career didn’t end up the way I wanted, it was still a blessing.”
And Joe Cohen has been a blessing to his family, friends and community as well.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
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