By Andrew Porter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 31 years ago George Washington High School needed a high-school football coach. Problem was, no one wanted the job.
Ron Cohen had been an assistant at the public school in Northeast Philadelphia for only one year, but the job was now his, whether he liked it or not.
“I wasn’t a high-profile name at all,” Cohen told CBSPhilly.com. “I only got the job because no one else wanted it. They forced me to take it.”
261 wins, 12 Public League titles, and three decades later Cohen—now a legendary name in the community—is retiring.
Cohen, 72, was a two-way back at Germantown (class of 1961) and played at Temple University. He was a teacher for 48 and a half years and compiled a record of 261-84-2 (.757) during 30 seasons as Washington’s head coach.
“Everybody has been saying I’m going to retire, like five years ago,” Cohen said. “You know when you’re ready and I’m ready. When you compare apples to apples, [Washington] is one of the best. Things have changed in the Public League. I’ve been very fortunate in 30 years at Washington.”
When reflecting upon his illustrious career, Cohen mentioned his first Public League title over Martin Luther King High School, his 100th win, and his 200th win. Most enduring for him, however, was the first game he ever coached.
“I have a rule, if you don’t practice, you don’t play,” Cohen explained. “Well, the starting quarterback didn’t come to practice so I had to start to the second-string quarterback in my first game. In the second half he got hurt, so everyone wanted me to put the starter in the game, but I didn’t. I went with a JV [Junior Varsity] quarterback vs. Germantown. We went offside the first two plays because he was so nervous. But we went 46-yards on our final drive and kicked a field goal to win 10-7. We went on to win 10 straight [games] and start 10-0.”
Most importantly to Cohen were the people he impacted and the players he coached along the way.
Four of his former players—Dominique Curry (currently with the Philadelphia Soul), Sharrif Floyd (currently with the Minnesota Vikings), Bruce Perry, and Jameel McClain (currently with the New York Giants) reached the NFL.
“Key thing is I’ve been fortunate enough and blessed with players like Andrew Goodman, Jameel McClain, Sharrif Floyd, Cliff Stein who is the Vice President [of Football Administration] with the Chicago Bears,” Cohen said.
In his retirement, Cohen says he plans to travel and spend more time with his friends and family. Cohen lives in Huntingdon Valley.
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