Princeton – Most quarterbacks don’t like contact or being hit.
In almost every way, Princeton signal caller Grant Cochran breaks that mold.
“My favorite play would probably be a quarterback run – a designed quarterback run,” Cochran said. “I’m not much of a runner but I do like contact. I might pull it on purpose one time and run.”
Aside from his willingness to take contact, Cochran has started all but two games of his career at quarterback, making him a three-year starter for the Tigers. On top of it all he’s more of a prototype pocket passing where as most high school teams will put one of their best athletes at the position. But he’s been exactly what the Tigers have needed.
He’s left his mark on the program, by tossing over 50 career touchdown passes and earning all-state honors in each of the last two seasons. With that amount of experience you’d think he’d feel invincible. But as any good quarterback would be, he’s aware of the situation and knows settling isn’t good enough.
“It’s a never-ending process and you can’t get too comfortable,” Cochran said. “I think where I’ve grown the most is being more consistent and raising my completion percentage. Consistency is a big thing in this offense and if you miss one play it might mess everything up, do what your coaches ask and perform at a high level. I think consistency is the key this year.”
Cochran doesn’t have a history of being complacent though, at least not on the field. After graduating a talented crop of skill players including the 2020 Moss Award winner, Cochran became one of the most experienced players on the team last season and had to exhibit patience as the Tigers broke in new starters at every skill position.
At times that meant leaning heavily on the ground game and buying into that. But it didn’t phase Cochran as he wanted to win. Make no mistake, he clicked with his skill players down the stretch, breaking the single-game passing yard record in the regular season finale with 444 against Parkersburg South while his then sophomore receiver Dom Collins caught four touchdown passes, also a program record.
This year the chemistry has been good from the go.
“It’s nothing new,” Cochran said. “Our senior class has been together since then eighth grade and we’ve got some other guys too that will be a big help. The trust and experience we have in each other as a group, I think that will lead us far in the playoffs.”
The sheer amount of reps and evolving group of skill players have also forced growth in the rising senior. He’s learned to work more of the field and hit backside reads in an air raid offense that puts a lot on the QB.
“Making third and fourth reads in my progressions – I think that’s where I’ve grown the most,” Cochran said. “I’ve been able to get to those second level reads and it’s helped me grow as a quarterback. My first year I’d say I played a little fast and scared because I was a young guy out there and I think as I’ve grown older it’s been easier to slow down and know where to go with the ball and slow the game down.”
Of course Cochran’s grown in ways that aren’t measured in accolades or statistics. As somebody who’s done it for three years and produced at a high level, combined with the nature of the quarterback position, he’s become a leader for the team during one its most successful runs in a decade.
“I think nothing really tangible, but I feel like I’ve grown as a leader,” Cochran said. “I’ve been able to realize there’s more going on than what I’m doing. It’s about helping kids with what they’re doing and helping others on the team helps others as a whole. If they know what they need to do and know what their role is it helps the team get better and we all get better.”
“Team success is the biggest goal. A state championship is all we’ve ever looked forward to. It’s something every kid dreams of and I think if you’re not out here playing for that then you shouldn’t be out here. I don’t have any personal goals, I just hope our team does well as a whole and ends up well.”
While helping the team get better is often playerspeak, or cliche at best, Cochran has ponied up. For the first time since his freshman season he’ll be playing defense, moving back to defensive end where he played in 2019 before an injury to then starting quarterback Ranson Graham made Cochran a permanent fixture behind center.
“I’ve actually tried to get them to let me play defense for the last couple of years,” Cochran laughed. “When I had to move to QB my freshman year they took me off defense because they didn’t want to lose another QB to injury but I played on the line my freshman year and I’ve loved it. I like contact so it’s gone good. I kept asking them if I could play on defense this season and they finally gave in so I’m hoping I can help the team there too.”
As a cornerstone of the Tigers turnaround, one that’s led them to consecutive playoff appearances after the program collected four wins in the previous three seasons, Cochran has had time to reflect on what it means to be successful to this point and what this senior class has done for the program.
He’s grateful for the role he’s been allowed to play in it and the fact they’ve not only talked about it but been able to do it. But the job isn’t finished.
The next step involves not only extending the playoff streak but making noise and winning once arriving in the postseason.
“I think it’s awesome to be a part of this,” Cochran said. “Like I said, this group of seniors, we’ve been together for awhile. We’ve talked about turning this program around and being the change we want to see and it’s unbelievable. But we’re not done yet. It’s our last year and we’re going to make a big push and it’s all we’ve looked forward to. Being a part of the turnaround, it’s helped us as players and definitely this town. I think this town supports us better than anybody and that’s who we do it for – this town and our coaches.”
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