FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With reserve defensive lineman Myron Pryor doubtful for Sunday’s playoff game against the Jets with a back injury, it creates opportunity for others on the roster. Landon Cohen falls into that category.
Signed by the Patriots on Dec. 22, Cohen figured he’d be easing into the mix. Instead, he’s been thrust right into the fire, playing extensively in the final two regular-season games, mostly as an interior sub rusher.
The 24-year-old Cohen is an example of how fast things can change in the NFL. He had been out of a job for six weeks, wondering about the next step in his career, but now he finds himself in a playoff atmosphere for the first time.
This represents one of the high points of his NFL career. It’s a lot different than his rookie season when he was with the 0-16 Detroit Lions.
Cohen shares his football journey with ESPNBoston.com:
When he first started playing football: “I was 7 years old, for the Omega Raiders. There wasn’t a 7- and 8-year-old team, so I played with 9- and 10-year-olds. I just had a ball. I practiced every day but my dad never let me get in the game. I used to cry and get mad, and tell him I was going to quit, but he wasn’t going to put me in there until I was ready.”
First positions: “Fullback and defensive line. So I’ve pretty much been a defensive lineman my entire life.”
Mentors: “Really, my older brother [Marcus] and my mom [Carolyn Ragin]. I was a family guy, so my family kept me on a straight and narrow path growing up.”
Favorite teams growing up: “I wasn’t into professional or college teams. I just loved my high school team, the Spartanburg [S.C.] Vikings. Everything was about them.”
Best high school memories: “My sophomore year in high school, we played in the state championship game. We were down by 21 at halftime and we came back and won the game.”
Why he chose to attend Ohio University: “The coach who recruited me, Everette Sands, had recruited my brother down at the Citadel. I didn’t have any other offers and he said there was a scholarship there for me. I went on my visit and that’s where it was. It was totally different from anything I had ever seen, so I enjoyed going up north and playing college ball.”
Best memory of his college career: "My junior year, we won seven straight games, and it was the first time Ohio had done that in a long time. We played in the MAC championship and made our first Bowl appearance since 1968.”
Selected by the Detroit Lions in the 2008 seventh round: “That was a crazy experience. I watched the rounds go by. I prepared myself for the moment but it was an extreme blessing for me. My family was happy. Just to be one of those 230 to 250 guys to get drafted was a big accomplishment. I wasn’t on the radar for anybody, so I just kind of waited; I was doing homework at the time because I was still in school.”
Enduring an 0-16 season as a rookie: “We went 4-0 in the preseason, so I was thinking we would be really, really good. It didn’t turn out that way. I learned a lot from coach Rod Marinelli. I feel like if I can go through an 0-16 season, seeing the absolute worst it can be -- not in terms of the organization but in winning games -- I feel like I’m ready for anything.”
What it was like to go 0-16: “Honestly, we just kind of stayed the course. It wasn’t as bad as people think it was. Coach Marinelli was a guy who said, ‘Well, we lost that one, let’s get ready for the next one.’ So it kind of made things a little better and [hid] the elephant in the room.”
A second season with the Lions, with a new coaching staff under Jim Schwartz: “I was 285 pounds and they said, ‘You won’t be on this team if you can’t be over 300 pounds. So I got to about 307 and made that football team. That’s when I really started to get experience, playing in the NFL. I started [four] games.”
Getting waived at the final cut down this year: “I had a good preseason, led the team in sacks and tackles for loss, so I wasn’t expecting to get released. The very next day, I was called by Jacksonville to be picked up off waivers. I stayed there for nine weeks, until after the bye week, and I was released. I had a high ankle sprain the second week I got there and it took me out of the rotation that was going on. I understand the business and have no hard feelings.”
Thoughts on landing with the Patriots: “I think I’ve seen 'very bad' in the NFL [with 0-16 Detroit], I’ve seen 'so-so' in Jacksonville and I’ve seen the best with how things are run here. I’m excited about the opportunity and just thrilled that these guys and coaches have put me in the game plan and allowed me to go out there and play.”
Receiving a surprising amount of playing time (69 snaps in two games): “I thought there would be time to learn stuff but it was like, ‘No, this is what you learn, this is what you do, so go out there and do it.’"
Summing up his football journey: “I just feel like I’ve been incredibly blessed. I feel like I am an NFL football player. My journey has been long and it’s been tough at times. This past year was tough, being let go two times from a team. But I’ve landed here and I’m extremely excited about it.”