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The letter, published a couple of days ago and written in essay form, was written by Tarik Cohen to his 17-year-old self. And it’s enlightening, heartbreaking, hopeful and inspiring.
Cohen, the first Chicago Bears running back released by the team in March, he is looking to return to the field after missing all 2021 due to a serious knee injury sustained during the 2020 season.
He writes (again, to himself) in his letter written to the Players’ Tribune that “you’re finally starting to feel like yourself as a football player again. That blowout, it’s back. The fast-twitch muscles, are back. The ability to cut on a dime? That is back too. And it feels amazing.” “
But, adds Cohen, “this is just the football part”.
The part of life is marked by tragedy.
Cohen lost his younger brother, Dante, in a fatal car accident in early April.
Dante spent years in and out of prison selling drugs and running with the wrong people and eventually lost the ability to walk after being shot. He appeared to be resetting course in a better direction when the accident took him, but that does little to alleviate the loss of him.
Cohen’s twin brother Tyrell was also killed in May 2021. He was found dead at a Duke Power substation in Raleigh, North Carolina after being electrocuted.
He had been in a car accident and fleeing the scene apparently headed to the substation, where he climbed a pole and contacted a live wire.
“Your twin, your mate from the start, is gone,” Cohen writes. “Later that day, you’ll have to tell Tyrell’s two girls that their dad won’t be coming home.
“You will take responsibility for being the only one to do it. You will volunteer. You will know it has to be you. But, man …
“Doing it will break you completely. Going in the house and look a six and a four year old in the eye and try to make sense of it? See the looks on their faces when they hear their dad is gone forever It’s just all that pain. “
That moment will be the lowest. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life. “
This says a lot because Cohen explains in detail how many other very difficult moments have been.
It details how Dante was shot in the head by unknown assailants seeking revenge on him because he shot someone in a drug deal gone wrong.
Cohen learns of his brother’s condition before doing an ESPN interview, he goes on with the interview, never mentioning what’s really going on in his life or thoughts.
“After the interview is over, you’ll shake hands a little more, board a plane, drive home to North Carolina, walk into the hospital and see your brother lying there,” Cohen writes. “You’ll see all those tubes, wires and bandages …
“And you will lose it.”
Cohen writes about his concerns about his career and contract status and what people are saying about him on social media after his 2020 knee injury. But all of that pales in comparison to what life holds for his family, in particular after Dante’s shooting.
“It will appear that you are crying so hard that your insides are coming out of your body, as if they are running away,” he writes. “Then, along with all the beeps and hums of the machines, you will hear the doctors and nurses talking …
“Severe brain injuries”.
“He probably won’t walk anymore.”
Cohen juggled all of this with professional success that included a $ 17 million contract that included $ 12 million in guaranteed money and all the traps that come with it.
But, in the end, no one really knows what’s happening to him beyond the NFL environment: the pain, the despair.
“Sitting here now, looking back at everything, it almost feels like you’ve made a deal with the devil or something with football,” he writes. “As if everything that happened was somehow the price you had to pay to get to the NFL and be successful. And maybe it is or maybe not, but it’s something you will have to think long and hard about, basically throughout your life in the future. “
Tarik Cohen is 26 and continues to wait for his next opportunity in the NFL.