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N.C. A&T State’s Tarik Cohen headlines HBCU seniors with NFL aspirations

And his SportsCenter backflip segment is amazing


There isn’t an ounce of arrogance emanating from Tarik Cohen — not in the way he walks, talks or carries himself. We’ve seen him on the sidelines — after he’s twisted up defenders on a breakaway run — when a little posturing is warranted.

We’ve seen him in the locker room with his teammates, cameras off, jostling for that last Subway foot-long sandwich. We’ve seen him with his larger-than-life coach, Rod Broadway, and the pride of Bunn High School manages to be the same guy: quiet and soft-spoken, yet an imposing presence that belies his 5-foot-6, 179-pound frame.

HBCU football stars on the rise

But we saw a slight crack in his persona game when he was asked about his potential and his abilities. “Ballers ball,” Cohen told The Undefeated in an exclusive interview at North Carolina A&T State University’s Greensboro campus. “I know I’m the best running back in the country. That’s no knock on anybody else. I know what I can do.”

Cohen gave the nation a glimpse of his talents in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl last December, when he ran for a school-record 295 yards and three scores in N.C. A&T State’s 41-34 win over Alcorn State University.

Way before he backflipped live on SportsCenter and even before his Celebration Bowl heroics, Cohen had made a name for himself, having compiled 4,663 all-purpose yards, 21 100-yard games and four 200-yard games in his first three years. Now a senior with NFL aspirations, Cohen understands that this season is make-or-break. He headlines a pool of seniors who have that same goal — and the same pressure — of a shot at the next level.

Mark W. Wright is a Charlotte-based sports journalist and documentarian.