March 23, 2017

(STATS) - The 5-foot-6, 179-pound stature of former North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen has long been an issue surrounding his potential future in the NFL.

He sizes it up differently.

"I wouldn't be the player that I am if it wasn't for my size," he said.

Appearances aside, Cohen's heart and desire measure up to an NFL level, and so could his performance.

Considered a late-round possibility for the April 27-29 draft, the speedy Cohen is viewed as a change-of-pace type of back, a la the similarly sized Darren Sproles of the Eagles, although he also patterns himself after Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Like both of those players, he envisions a dynamic role that puts his many skills to work.

"I can play in the backfield, out of the backfield and in the special team game," he said. "Any part of the game that can get the ball in my hands will be great."

It worked well at N.C. A&T, where he became the MEAC's all-time rushing leader with 5,619 yards and its first three-time conference offensive player of the year. He led the MEAC and had over 1,100 rushing yards in each of his four seasons, capped by 1,588 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground - both school records - as a senior. He caught 98 career passes as well.

At the NFL combine earlier this month, Cohen's 40 was clocked in 4.42 seconds, which was third fastest among running backs. That speed makes him a home-run hitter (59 career touchdowns), but he also is elusive against would-be tacklers, keeping a low pad level and making seemingly impossible cuts.

Despite his size, he has surprisingly large hands, measured at 10 1/8 inches at the combine, which helps explain why he didn't fumble often at N.C. A&T. He also is willing to lower his shoulder and fight through tackles for extra yards.

So all that focus on his size?

"I just let it fuel me," he said.

Not to be lost is the transformation N.C. A&T's program made to a nationally ranked level during Cohen's time in Greensboro. The Aggies went 35-12 (24-8 MEAC) over the last four seasons, with two conference titles and a win in the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in 2015.

A&T hasn't had an NFL draft choice since offensive lineman Junius Coston in 2005, but it may have one next month.

"It's been a long journey," Cohen said. "Everything's just kind of building up, it's kind of like a storybook kind of ending - hopefully."

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