Central-Phenix City offensive lineman Javion Cohen still remembers exactly where he was when he received his first scholarship offer.
It was April 2018, and the then-rising junior had just finished some drills out on the practice field before heading over to a weight bench inside. A coach from Alabama A&M stopped him, explained that football was won in the trenches and told Cohen and teammate Josh Jones they had what it took to play college football.
The moment was a special one for Cohen, but it’s proven to just be one of several milestones on the path he’s taken as his senior season at Central draws closer.
Cohen has come a long way since his sophomore season, during which the Central coaches moved him from defensive line to offensive line. The time since the change has featured plenty of great plays as well as an immeasurable amount of recruiting attention for Cohen, who ended his recruitment by committing to Auburn on May 31.
“It's been a very good journey,” Cohen said. “When I started playing (offensive line), I was still in defensive lineman mode. Everything was new to me. I think the transformation in one year has been amazing. I think the coaches have seen that, and I've seen it myself. I'm very proud of how I came along.”
Cohen came up at Central as a disruptor on the defensive line, and his athleticism led head coach Jamey DuBose and Co. to even give him reps at tight end. The coaches saw attributes in Cohen’s play that made them feel like he was better suited to play offensive line, so as a sophomore Cohen went from chasing down the quarterback to protecting him.
Cohen admitted the early days after the position change were challenging. Cohen explained the most difficult aspect of the switch was in his footwork, which had completely changed from moving forward on a pass rush to sliding backwards in protection.
Despite the hiccups and early miscues, Cohen kept his head down and worked.
Cohen got into a groove in the offseason prior to his junior year, which included receiving his first of countless scholarship offers. Cohen worked alongside Jones, who together make the self-named “Twin Towers” for the Red Devils, and was eager to prove he was capable of locking down the line.
Once the 2018 season got going, Cohen demonstrated he was one of the best offensive lineman in the state. He played in 13 games as a junior in 2018, recording 42 pancake blocks and grading out at 91 percent for a Central team that won its first state championship since 1993.
With the help of Cohen and his fellow offensive linemen, the Red Devils offense set a new school record with 578 points while also averaging 435 yards of offense per game.
“He's a very athletic guy who's got tremendous feet,” DuBose said. “You take a guy that's 6-4, 260 or 270 and got feet like him, then you can possibly pay your way in life. That's what he's done as far as his education now. Now, where it goes from there is going to be up to his next level of work and how he's able to progress and continue to grow.”
Cohen’s athleticism and potential caught the attention of premier college football programs during the fall and into this offseason. The rising senior collected 34 scholarship offers, and after briefly committing to South Carolina, he committed to Auburn to start the team’s Big Cat Weekend.
Cohen pointed to his relationships with the Auburn coaches as a major draw to becoming a Tiger. The moment after announcing his commitment was a surreal one for Cohen, who saw playing college football as a longshot dream only two years ago.
“(My dreams) weren't always bright. I trusted the process, and I trusted my coaches. Now, it's real,” Cohen said. “I love everybody. The whole community and that feel from the fanbase shows that it's the greatest fanbase in college football. I’m thankful for it all.”
DuBose spoke highly of Cohen’s future at Auburn and compared him to former Auburn offensive lineman Austin Golson, who DuBose coached at Prattville High School. DuBose applauded Golson – who played in 50 collegiate games at Ole Miss and Auburn – for his athleticism but added Cohen has all the tools to be even more athletic.
Cohen has accepted his coach’s challenge of putting the work in, which has helped Cohen bulk up to 280 pounds before his senior year.
Cohen’s dedication through the last two years has helped him go from a potential piece on the Central offensive line to a future SEC player. His offseason has had a healthy mix of time spent between preparing for college and gearing up for his senior season, but now his focus is totally on the Red Devils’ season-opening game against Hoover on Aug. 23.
“I'm super excited. If we could play today, I'll play today,” Cohen said. “I'm ready to play Hoover. They're great competition. It's always going to be a great game playing one of the most storied games in Alabama history, the Champions Challenge.
“I'm very ready to play. When it happens, you'll see.”