For one of the newest members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jerricho Cotchery, his time in the National Football League has been a rollercoaster ride. His first two seasons were not big years for him. Playing behind guys like Santana Moss; Laveranues Coles; and Justin McCareins early on in his career; Cotchery was not a main target when guys like Chad Pennington; Vinny Testaverde; and Brooks Bollinger were looking for guys to complete passes to. In his first two seasons he caught 25 passes for 311 receiving yards and was still searching for his first career touchdown. Come his third season and first season as a go-to starter for the Jets, Cotchery made a name for himself in the NFL and showed teams and players everywhere that he had what it took to be a professional football player.
In his first season as a starter on the Jets, Cotchery finished the year with 82 receptions, 961 receiving yards and scored six touchdowns; an improvement of 57 receptions, 650 receiving yards and six touchdowns from the two previous seasons combined. With Santana Moss departing for Washington, Cotchery and Coles became the go-to receivers for the Jets for the next few seasons. Following his first full season with the Jets, Cotchery was named the recipient of the Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award; an award that honours former Jets linebacker Kyle Clifton, who in their opinion is the best player of all-time to wear number 59.
The following year, he would match his 82 receptions, improve to 1,130 receiving yards, but was held to just two touchdowns for the season. Some may look at that year as a decline in his numbers but playing one game less than the previous season and playing on a team that finished 4-12; Cotchery’s awareness and leadership only improved during the horrid season for the Jets. He couldn’t repeat winning the Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award but instead won the 2007 Marty Lyons Award for his community service throughout the year.
After the horrible season, Cotchery was able to find his scoring touch again. He finished the season with five touchdowns on 71 receptions, finishing the season with 858 receiving yards. During the 2008 season he was voted by selected NFL players for the Ed Block Courage Award for being a role model of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage. The award is named after former Baltimore Colts trainer Ed Block and is handed out by the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation; an organization that focuses on promoting the prevention of child abuse and to raise awareness for the cause, as well as providing care for abused people.
Aside from the personal awards Jerricho has won over the years, he likes to focus on his own foundation. The Cotchery Foundation is a non-profit organization that was established to benefit underprivileged youth. Their mission is to inspire children to conceive and achieve goals through different programs and services designed to enhance their future. Over the years they have established several programs that were designed to provide proper mentoring and academic support to the underprivileged youth. Through the programs they also try and help show them the with initiative and determination they will be able to live a successful life doing what they want to do. The main programs are Club 89; Keys to Reading Success; Jerricho’s Junior Leaders; and Skills and Drills Football Camp. With their programs focusing on youth, each one specializes in something different. Catch 89 is a mentoring program that helps students conceptualize life after high school and get their life on track. Keys to Reading Success teamed up with The Cotchery Foundation to allow students to improve their reading skills in a hands-on manner. This program helps children from as early as kindergarten, all the way up to grade 12. Jerricho’s Junior Leaders is an initiative that gives middle and high school students the opportunity to continue life skills training beyond their football camps. They gain values such as academic success, community involvement, and leadership skills. Additional benefits for the participants include youth having increased exposure to caring and supportive adults, involvement with positive peer groups, positive expectations and optimism for the future, and elimination of delinquent behaviours and beliefs. Last but not least, the Skills and Drills Football Camp is an annual one-day camp hosted by Jerricho Cotchery and other NFL players around the league as they take time out of their busy schedules to help teach kids the fundamentals of football and the important things in life that will help make them successful.
People take a look at Cotchery’s numbers and see an average wide receiver. In reality, Cotchery is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL, with the leadership and skill to be a top receiver on any team in the league today. His numbers might not compare to guys like Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans or Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts, but he was always a top receiver during his stint with Gang Green. Playing on a team who also focuses a lot on their rushing game, Cotchery became a consistent 800+ yards receiver as a starter with the Jets and always showed up on the field. He is entering his eighth season in the NFL and is looking for a fresh start with the highly talented Pittsburgh Steelers. He will be surrounded by plenty of leadership that are only going to help make him better. He isn’t expected to put up 800+ yards with the Steelers since they have established receivers in Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, but Cotchery is going to be a great acquisition for their offense and organization and is going to open up things a little bit more for Ben Roethlisberger throughout the course of the season.
To learn more about The Cotchery Foundation, visit http://www.cotcheryfoundation.com/