John 'Red' Cochran, who gave more than half his life to the Packers organization, passed away Sunday morning. Still active in the college scouting department, he was 82 years old.
Cochran is survived by his wife Pat, son Russell, daughters Cindy and Tracy, and several grandchildren. He died at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay of apparent heart failure, after undergoing hip replacement surgery Wednesday.
Originally brought to Green Bay in 1959 by Vince Lombardi, Cochran served the organization 42 years in all, 12 as an assistant coach and the last 30 as a college scout.
When assembling his first coaching staff, Lombardi wanted Cochran as his offensive backs coach because Cochran's fiery personality was perfect for helping Lombardi reverse the team's fortunes. The Packers were an NFL-worst 1-10-1 in 1958, a club that included three players Cochran would help mold into Hall of Famers: Bart Starr, Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.
After one year in private business, Cochran returned to football and served as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Cardinals (1968-69) and San Diego Chargers (1970). Dan Devine brought him back to Green Bay as offensive backfield coach (1971-74), a role in which Cochran tutored John Brockington, currently the team's third all-time leading rusher. All told, Cochran was an NFL coach for 18 years, including three seasons with the Detroit Lions (1956-58).
A running back himself, Cochran played four years (1947-50) for the Chicago Cardinals, the last under former Packers coach Curly Lambeau, which was not a fond memory. Cochran credited Lambeau with ending his playing career, because the coach didn't allow Cochran to treat a knee injury.
Earlier, when players saw action on both sides of ball, Cochran played against Lambeau's Packers and his star back Tony Canadeo. During a training-camp scrimmage at Green Bay's Rockwood Lodge in the late 1940s, Canadeo gave Cochran a knee to the head and knocked Cochran unconscious. Cochran's teams, in 52 years as a player (1947-50), assistant coach (1956-66, 1968-74) and scout (1975-2004), played in 10 NFL championship games, and won seven.
Planning his next trip at the time of his death, Cochran scouted colleges in the Upper Midwest. Given a scouting role in 1975 by his former pupil Starr, Cochran was believed to be the oldest scout still visiting schools. He was good friends with many nearby coaches, including legendary St. John's coach John Gagliardi. In May 1979, Cochran also lobbied for the Packers to draft a Notre Dame quarterback named Joe Montana.
The vision that helped him become a scout later in life also helped him serve his country, as a B-24 bomber pilot late in World War II. Cochran played at Wake Forest before and after his service, then returned as a Demon Decons assistant coach from 1951-55.
More recently, Cochran enjoyed providing invaluable help to the Packers Hall of Fame, in preserving and explaining details of the Lombardi legacy for current and future generations. Thanks to Cochran, archivist Tom Murphy was able to identify and clarify unique artifacts, such as Lombardi's handwriting on pages from old New York Giants and Packers playbooks. Cochran even revealed that Lombardi carried a folded piece of paper in his wallet, listing important talking points that the coach would periodically pull out for both his players and himself. Most of Cochran's descriptions are on display in the museum, located in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
Born Aug. 2, 1922, in Fairfield, Ala., Cochran received his nickname for his hair color and short-tempered personality.
At the request of the family, who was still trying to notify immediate family members Sunday, the Packers did not announce Cochran's passing until Monday morning. Funeral arrangements are being finalized at this time.