Cohen Excels in Classroom, on Field
Miazga, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Mike Miazga Daily Herald Correspondent
Bartlett graduate Joel Cohen is a textbook success story.
In high school at Bartlett, Cohen sported an unsightly 1.6 grade-point average.
"To be totally honest, I was lazy and wasn't driven," said Cohen. "But I found an idea that I wanted to pursue and that was trying to play college football."
Cohen's college football trek first took him to the College of DuPage and then led him to Oregon State where he finished up his career last month as the starting long snapper in front of a national television audience at the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco at AT & T Park.
The 6-foot, 245-pound Cohen, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to an earlier knee injury, made 30 career starts for the Beavers.
But more importantly for him, he finished his career as a member of the Pac-10 Conference all-academic team with a 3.6 grade-point average.
"When I had that idea to play college football and then you think about the fact that you could lose it because the NCAA mandates grades, to lose this because of grades, I wasn't going to let that happen," said Cohen. "Through that I found out I was not that stupid and could actually read and write - things I neglected in high school. I'm more proud of the fact I was able to turn things around from an academic standpoint. When I got here academics weren't something that meant a lot to me. Now it means the world to me. I'm glad I accomplished the things I set out to do and was able to find a passion for education."
Cohen said the gravity of what he's been able to accomplish still hasn't fully sunk in yet.
"It's a very fulfilling thing," he said.
"Most people play their last high school game and think their career is all over. Anytime you can go above and beyond that whether it's junior college or division one, two or three, it's a very fulfilling felling. Anybody that has done that knows they are very fortunate. I'm happy to have had the opportunity to do what I did and I got a college degree out of it. I threw a ball between my legs and got to go to places like USC and UCLA and I got to go to school. It's been a very interesting journey."
But Cohen said he can remember back to his final high school game at Bartlett and knew he might not be facing his swan song in football quite yet.
"I can't say I knew something like this was going to happen," said Cohen. "This is beyond anything I have ever imagined. My last high school game was at Elgin and I didn't have a feeling it was over for me. I would have been happy playing junior college. But this is beyond anything. It's a surreal feeling to go from having a 1.6 GPA to academic all-conference."
Sometimes Cohen would wake up and look out his window at Oregon State in amazement.
"Words can't explain it," said Cohen. "It's an awesome feeling. You wake up and say, '(wow).' I live across the street from the stadium. I wake up and I see a giant 47,000 seat place. You almost have to laugh. …