Sometimes, things work out.
But 18-year-old Jack Cochrane couldn't have known that in October of 2017. The Coyotes were 6-0 and ranked fourth in the nation when injuries left South Dakota's defense a bit shorthanded. Cochrane, a true freshman at the time who was planning on redshirting his first season, was asked if he wanted to join the travel team mid-season. Who would say no?
"It didn't seem like that much of a decision," said Cochrane. "I was just a young freshman who was chomping at the bit to play the game. I was lucky to be a part of a really successful team, and I think that's something you can't take for granted. I wanted to help the team inw any way I could."
And help he did. In fact, it was Cochrane who helped produce a turnover at the goal line in the final seconds of the Coyotes' 38-31 FCS playoff win against Nicholls in Louisiana. It was USD's first-ever trip to the postseason at the FCS level.
Still, exhausting a year of eligibility for a fill-in assignment in the second half of the season seems a harsh penalty to impose on an 18-year old. And the NCAA agreed, but not until a year later when it changed its rule that now allows any player to compete in up to four games and still take a redshirt year.
The two playoff games pushed Cochrane's service to seven games in 2017, and it's unlikely he would have removed himself four games into that experience. But the NCAA granting an extra year to all players due to the pandemic, in a sense, set things right in this case. Postponing law school for an extra fall of college football was another easy call for Cochrane.
"I was going into last fall thinking this is my senior year, let's do it," said Cochrane. "But when the NCAA said they would be given out an extra year of eligibility, I was pretty excited to get back to work. I feel like I still have a lot I could contribute to the school, this University, and I think there's a lot of room I can improve on a physical level that will help give me a chance at the next level."
Cochrane earned all-Valley honors in 2019 when he led the Valley in tackles during the regular season. He's been named to the Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star Team two years in a row. He was just named a preseason all-American for the second consecutive season, but that's not what makes him perk up. Instead, ask him what it means to be voted a team captain for the third time. That will do the trick.
"That's the biggest honor I think you can have on a team is knowing your teammates hold you in high enough regards that they'd be willing to have you represent them to the coaches and walking out on the field on game days," said Cochrane. "That's why we all play this game is to be part of a team and the relationships that come with this game I think are as good as any you'll find in sports and that's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
In regards to academics, Cochrane, who carries a perfect 4.0, is one class away from earning his degree and it's one he specifically pushed back for this fall semester. He passed the LSAT back in the summer of 2020, which is good for five years. So law school is still in the picture once football is not.
"There are tons of different branches you can go off of in law school, but I think I'd like to try to be an attorney," said Cochrane. "But after I passed the LSAT, I told myself that from that point on the focus is football. I'm going to be as fully committed and dedicated as I can possibly be. Whenever football ends, I'll have that to go to."