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N.C. A&T State’s Tarik Cohen headlines HBCU seniors with NFL aspirations

And his SportsCenter backflip segment is amazing

There isn’t an ounce of arrogance emanating from Tarik Cohen — not in the way he walks, talks or carries himself. We’ve seen him on the sidelines — after he’s twisted up defenders on a breakaway run — when a little posturing is warranted.

We’ve seen him in the locker room with his teammates, cameras off, jostling for that last Subway foot-long sandwich. We’ve seen him with his larger-than-life coach, Rod Broadway, and the pride of Bunn High School manages to be the same guy: quiet and soft-spoken, yet an imposing presence that belies his 5-foot-6, 179-pound frame.

HBCU football stars on the rise

But we saw a slight crack in his persona game when he was asked about his potential and his abilities. “Ballers ball,” Cohen told The Undefeated in an exclusive interview at North Carolina A&T State University’s Greensboro campus. “I know I’m the best running back in the country. That’s no knock on anybody else. I know what I can do.”

Cohen gave the nation a glimpse of his talents in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl last December, when he ran for a school-record 295 yards and three scores in N.C. A&T State’s 41-34 win over Alcorn State University.

Way before he backflipped live on SportsCenter and even before his Celebration Bowl heroics, Cohen had made a name for himself, having compiled 4,663 all-purpose yards, 21 100-yard games and four 200-yard games in his first three years. Now a senior with NFL aspirations, Cohen understands that this season is make-or-break. He headlines a pool of seniors who have that same goal — and the same pressure — of a shot at the next level.

Mark W. Wright is the director of special projects for The Undefeated. Born in England and raised in Jamaica, He sends referees running for the hills when they see the soccer dad (and Howard University alum) coming.