Former Bears RB Tarik Cohen pens emotional letter to his younger self after injuries, tragedies

Former Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen opened up about the numerous tragic moments in his past in an emotional post on The Players’ Tribune on Tuesday, including the point where he said he hit rock bottom and started wondering, “What’s the point?”

Cohen, who is a free agent and recovering from a knee injury, addressed several horrific incidents in his past, including his twin brother, who died in 2021, and his younger brother who was paralyzed from the waist down.

Cohen’s post was framed as a letter to his 17-year-old self, when he was set to enter his final year of high school.

“Look, nothing I can write in this letter could possibly prepare you for everything that is about to happen,” Cohen wrote. “I don’t even know where to start, to be honest with you. There’s just so much. Looking back on it all, it almost doesn’t seem real.

“There will be a big bag of crack cocaine. There’ll be a gun … right there in your hand, ready to shoot, to help you get revenge. There will be death. In the family. Unimaginable loss. And that’s only for starters.

“It's going to be a lot. And you know what? I wouldn’t fault you if you want to stop reading this letter right here. Not one bit.”

Cohen talked about his brother, Dante, who started dealing drugs and once called him to bail him out of jail. Then, Cohen brought up that other phone call — the one when Cohen’s twin, Tyrell, called to tell him that Dante was shot in the head.

From The Players Tribune:

Then, after you hang up the phone, you’re going to actually try and go about the rest of your day like normal. I’d love to try and convince you to cancel everything and head home immediately and allow yourself to properly process what happened, but that’d be useless.

You’re actually going to show up for that E:60 interview. Without telling the ESPN people, or anybody else, what has happened.

I’m sitting here now shaking my head just thinking about that, and how insane that was … but you’re basically just going to head into the studio, shake some hands, sit in the chair, and answer their questions.

You’ll barely pay attention to what’s being asked, of course. Ninety-nine percent of your brain is going to be thinking about your brother. Your phone will be in your pocket, and every time it vibrates, you’ll have a moment of panic like: Is this someone calling to tell me my brother is dead?

Dante was paralyzed from the shooting just before the 2019 season, which was Cohen’s worst in the league.

Cohen hasn’t played since he tore his ACL, MCL and fractured his tibial plateau three games into the 2020 season. He missed all of last year, and then the Bears released him with an injury designation in March. While those injuries were devastating to his career, he now calls them “the easiest of all the challenges you’ll face.”

Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen
Tarik Cohen opened up about the deaths of his two brothers, which he said led him to "rock bottom." (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Cohen then addressed a third call he received while recovering from his knee injury, this time from his mom. His twin, Tyrell, had died after he was electrocuted at an electrical substation.

From The Players Tribune:

Your twin, your companion from the beginning, gone.

Later that day, you’re going to have to tell Tyrell’s two little girls that their daddy isn’t coming home.

You’ll take it upon yourself to be the one to do that. You’ll volunteer. You’ll know that it needs to be you. But, man….

Doing that will completely break you. Going over to the house and looking a six-year-old and a four-year-old in the eyes and trying to make sense of that? Seeing the looks on their faces when they hear that their daddy is gone forever? Just all that sorrow.

That moment will be rock bottom. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life.

Cohen wrote his piece for The Players Tribune in April, just a few days before Dante was killed in a car accident.

“Sitting here now, looking back on everything, it almost feels like, with football, you kind of made a deal with the devil or something,” he wrote. “Like all that’s happened was somehow the price you had to pay to make it to the NFL and be successful. And maybe that’s the case or maybe it’s not, but it’s something you’re going to have to think long and hard about, basically for your entire life going forward.”

Cohen is now trying to work his way back into the league, with a goal of being healthy enough to make a roster by the start of the season.

“You’re going to survive, though,” he wrote. “You’re going to figure out how to look at the future with hope, and see that even with everything you’ve been through, better days can exist ahead.

“At the time when I’m writing you this letter, it’s been more than 18 months since you last played in the NFL. It’s a few weeks since you got released by the Bears. And you better believe you have something to prove.”