"The Human Joystick" nickname came from game action YouTube videos. But Tarik Cohen really got on the map for those who weren't aware of his on-field exploits through his acrobatic Instagram videos, including catching footballs simultaneously with each hand as he completes a backflip.
"It started because I had seen someone else do it. And we were bored after summer conditioning and decided to go out and try it," Cohen told reporters at Halas Hall Saturday afternoon. "The first two times (with one football, one hand) I failed, but the third time I got it pretty naturally. Then I was competing with someone else at a different school and he had done it too. So then I had to one up myself because everyone was asking what was next. So then I did it with two. Social media got ahold of that and things went crazy."
As for the nickname?
"I really prefer ... Someone on ESPN had called me "Chicken Salad" and I really liked that," Cohen said. "I don't think it's bad. "Human Joystick," I like it too."
"I don't know, I've never heard anybody called that, I wanted to be the one of one," Cohen said.
Cohen became Ryan Pace's second fourth-round pick on Saturday (No. 119) with a vision of becoming the running game's change of pace to last year's Pro Bowl fifth-round surprise Jordan Howard. In four years at North Carolina A&T, the 5-foot-6, 179 lb. waterbug piled up a MEAC-record 5,619 rushing yards and 61 touchdowns. Cohen notched 18 of those scores as a senior, including four of 83 yards or more. He had the fastest 10-yard split as part of his 4.42, 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.
"I was really disappointed with my 40 time because I wanted to run a sub 4.40 and I stumbled on the first one and it seems the second is always slower than the first," Cohen said.
Last season, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill became the all-purpose headache for Chiefs opponents, especially in space, with six receiving touchdowns, three rushing and three more on returns. Cohen is four inches shorter than Hill and doesn't return kicks, but size wise is a comp for Darren Sproles, who was also a fourth-round pick by the Chargers in 2005, but all three of his Pro Bowl appearances have come in the last three seasons. The physical stature in Sproles has seemed to be a bigger issue for opponents than the player himself, missing only eight games in his career.
"I think it'll play a key role and benefit me," Cohen told us. "The linemen are going to be bigger and it'll be really hard for defenders to see behind my linemen.
"I didn't want to necessarily be bigger (growing up), but I wanted to beat the bigger kids."
"Oh yeah, definitely. I've got that chip on my shoulder and when I went against the bigger kids I felt I had something to prove so I always go harder."
Now he'll face the biggest of them all with the Bears.