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Remembering John 'Red' Cochran (1922-2004)


Note: The following article first appeared in the September edition of Packer Report

John Thurman "Red" Cochran wore the Green Bay Packers' green and gold with great pride for more than 40 years...typically, even on the last day of his life...

A man of unwavering principle and strong convictions, Red Cochran was one of a kind. He had a mind of his own and expressed it freely -- whether it was about football, politics or the economy...freely and impartially.

Especially about football and football players, because football was his life-long passion and profession -- as a player, coach and scout during a 50-year career highlighted by contributing to four NFL championships and a Super Bowl victory as a member of Vince Lombardi's Green Bay coaching staff in the highly successful '60s.

Although Red Cochran had a wide circle of friends, there probably is no one who has a greater appreciation for his commitment, his football knowledge and his talent evaluation skills than John Dorsey, the Packers' director of college scouting.

Reflecting last week upon the 82-year-old Wake Forest alumnus and his unswerving loyalty to the Packers, Dorsey exhibited a fond smile and said, "I think the best example of that -- God rest his soul -- was when Red woke up that morning (the morning of September 5 when he passed away unexpectedly in his Green Bay hospital room following hip surgery). I was told he actually put his green and gold Packer clothes on and went over to therapy...He actually had a Packer outfit on when he left us."

Cochran's deep loyalty, Dorsey noted approvingly, was accompanied by an unshakeable commitment to being his "own" man -- to being true to himself and what he believed.

"From an evaluation standpoint, he was very strong in his opinions -- tended to stand by his opinions very much," he said. "And regardless if the majority felt it was the right decision, if Red disagreed with them, he just wanted it known that this is his position.

"He was very astute with some of his observations," Dorsey continued, adding, "Anyone who has been around football all of his life -- in the capacity he was -- I would say he accumulated an incredible amount of knowledge with regards to the game of football itself.

"Not only did he demonstrate his football brilliance in personnel -- he was a very good evaluator of talent -- but he also was a coach. And he coached three of the finest running backs ever to play here -- Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and John Brockington.

"So, with that in mind, he encompassed both sides of the football operations part of it -- he was a quality coach and a quality football man."

Cochran's "best asset as a scout," Dorsey further noted, "was a knowledgeable, strong opinion. He didn't always measure a man for his height, weight and speed, where some guys do today. He measured players for their love of the game and their production on the field.

"He looked for the intangibles and he could spot the intangibles. And it takes an enormous amount of years to be able to assess a man's intangibles, but he surely could find them."

Had there been any instances where Red could have -- or should have -- been credited for recommending the drafting of a specific player?

"The one that comes to mind almost instantaneously is Joe Montana," Dorsey replied. "I think that's well-documented that we didn't draft him but Coach Cochran was adamant that we should draft him -- and he was very right there.

"Some of the other guys he had strong opinions on were Mark Tauscher, Billy Schroeder and Najeh Davenport."

(Cochran, a running back, had been a quality football player himself at Wake Forest and later with the then Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals and, as a matter of fact, still holds the Cardinals' single-season record for punt return average, having averaged an imposing 20.93 yards for 15 runbacks in 1949, his final year with the Big Red).

Dorsey went on to speak with pride about the manner in which Cochran had represented the Packers organization while on the road in his professional capacity.

"Anybody who has even been associated with Coach Cochran had great respect for him -- not only as a man but as a football man.," he said. "He was admired by his peers in the scouting world and every time Coach Cochran went into a university, he represented the Green Bay Packers with as much dignity and class as any individual could. He exemplified the Green Bay Packers the way they are supposed to be exemplified when you go to a school."

Dorsey had not come upon the Green Bay scene until 1984, when he arrived as a rookie linebacker out of the University of Connecticut, but, over the past 20 years, he had become well acquainted with the "Lombardi Era" through the colorful tales Red Cochran would tell about that prosperous and productive period.

"I'll always remember him sitting there (in the player personnel department) in the mid-'90s and (general manager) Ron Wolf had ways of referencing Coach Cochran, who would tell stories about the great Packers and the meaning of what it was about in those days and what those guys brought to the table." Dorsey confided.

"And I think the reason Ron was doing that was he was trying to teach us the value of Coach Cochran and the respect he had for the game and how much he brought to the game -- and also understood the traditions of this organization.

"It was really interesting to see how proud Coach Cochran would get when he could tell those stories.

"I think one of the funniest stories he ever told was about when we were playing the Bears down at Chicago and Coach Halas was coaching, and Red didn't like something the Bears had done to his running back. And, at halftime, when the teams were going into the locker room, Coach Cochran chased Coach Halas and got in his face and said, 'You know you can't be doing this.'

"Here's a man," Dorsey said, chuckling, "that has confronted, on Sunday, a legend like George Halas. And we were lucky enough to be around to hear some of the stories he has told in the past."

The Packers' college scouting chief was equally impressed with Cochran's enthusiasm for his job, particularly for one of his advanced years.

"It was interesting," he said. "We were here (in Dorsey's office at 1265 Lombardi Avenue) and talking about training camp recently and Coach Cochran was talking about how excited he was to go out scouting this season. He and Pat were going to get in their truck and kind of go out a couple days.

"He had planned to rehab his hip early in September and, in October, he was going out to his number of schools that he usually hit...Usually, what he'd been doing -- he'd been doing the upper, the northern Midwest...And he was going to do film work here (in the Packers' personnel department).

"He'd do the Wisconsin state schools, he'd go over to Minnesota , then -- at times, he'd go into the Dakotas...South and North well as go down to see Northwestern University.

"And any man that still has zest at 82 years of age, that's incredible," Dorsey said. "He was very passionate about his work."

There was, he affirmed, another side to Red Cochran.

"He was very proud of his family," Dorsey said. "He was very close to his wife. And he spoke very fondly of his children and grandchildren all the time.

Smiling, Dorsey appended, "When we'd sit in those (pre-draft) personnel meetings, which were very long -- 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m, he was in there (the meeting room) with all of us. And he always looked forward to the evening and sharing time with Pat. They would sit there at home and they would have their one little martini at night, and they'd sit there and socialize.

"Red would get a little ornery when those night meetings would run long. He'd go, 'Well, thanks for telling me the meeting was going to be extended another hour...thanks for telling me.'

"But that was Coach Cochran. He had set his watch and, if the meeting extended over, he would get mad because he cherished that time being with Pat...A schedule was a his mind."

Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *

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