Scott Cochran speaks in all caps.
‘Get your mind right!’ ‘Let’s get it!’ ‘Make his ass quit!’ and ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ are some of the Alabama head strength coach’s favorite short, sweet and right-to-the-point sayings.
Before practice as the team stretches, Cochran can be heard booming one of the aforementioned bits at the top of his lungs (he says he gets hoarse every night and drinks hot tea with lemon to soothe his throat), or he could be rapping some lyrics that he knows are his players’ favorite. Anything to get the energy levels pumping.
“Man, the energy that he has,” said defensive end Damion Square. “I’ve been here five years and he hasn’t missed a day with that energy and that enthusiasm that he brings to the weight room and to the practice field every day. And if he can do it, I know I can do it. He’s just an example of what we should be every day, loving what you do, loving your work and just coming to work.”
Cochran has always been into inspirational sayings. Back when he was in high school at John Curtis in New Orleans, his parents would pack him little quotes in his brown paper lunch bag. He and about six friends—most of who grew up to become strength coaches, including Vic Viloria who is the strength coach at Florida State—would sit around the lunch table and read the quotes out loud.
Cochran played football at John Curtis and the high school’s strength coach at the time was current LSU strength coach Tommy Moffitt, one of the nation’s most renowned in the profession.
“We all wanted to be like coach Moffitt,” Cochran said. “Oh yeah!”
And now, Cochran is like Moffitt, one of the premier strength coaches in the country. He loves his job and wants to do it for the rest of his life.
Cochran graduated from LSU in 2001 with a degree in kinesiology and got his master’s degree in sports management in ’03. While in graduate school, the Tigers head football coach was none other than Nick Saban, and he hired Cochran as an assistant strength coach.
In 2004, Cochran became an assistant strength coach with the New Orleans Hornets where he coached guys like Chris Paul, Baron Davis, David West and Tyson Chandler. Two-and-half years later, while Cochran was preparing for a Hornets-Hawks game in Atlanta, Saban called. He wanted his former employee to come to Tuscaloosa and be Alabama’s head strength coach.
“He called and I said, ‘Coach, I don’t have a suit or anything,’” Cochran said. “’All I have is sweats.’ He goes, ‘I’m not hiring you to be my banker, I’m hiring you to be my strength coach. Just get your butt down here.’ I said yes sir.”
During the game, Cochran couldn’t stop thinking about his upcoming opportunity in Alabama. Even though Saban didn’t care about his wardrobe, Cochran wanted to show him a different side. He was 22 when he was an assistant at LSU and wanted to show Saban he’d grown up and wasn’t still that young guy.
After the game, around midnight, Cochran went to an Atlanta Wal-Mart, because it was the only store that was open. He paid $92 for a pair of brown shoes, socks, khaki pants, a white shirt, a red tie and a navy blazer.
The next day, he flew from Atlanta to Birmingham—“I didn’t know you could just drive to Tuscaloosa from Atlanta,” he said. “No clue.”—and was picked up at the airport and driven to Tuscaloosa.
“And I’m in my squeaky shoes every step I take,” Cochran said. “Them Wal-Mart shoes, baby. Squeak, squeak, squeak.”
Cochran was offered the job, took it and has been a critical part in Alabama’s recent national championships.
So does he still have any of the clothes he bought that night at Wal-Mart?
“I have the jacket,” he said. “I’m not gonna tell the story on the jacket, but there is some significance to that.”
Cochran is not just a strength coach. He’s a parent, a friend, a teacher and a mentor to every player on the team. He’ll sit down with each guy every week in his office to discuss their goals, dreams, struggles, problems. Anything. Day or night.
In 2010, Nico Johnson lost his mother to complications with diabetes. Obviously he was having a rough time.
“He was pretty much there for me everyday,” Johnson said of Cochran. “I’m so thankful that I was able to go through that with him because it was difficult and he kept me motivated, kept me grounded, kept me humble through that whole process and I’m here today playing for a third national championship, so it helped.”
“I couldn’t imagine that,” Cochran said. “So I was just there for him. When he needed something, I was there. And that’s all of them. It doesn’t have to be a death. To me, they need somebody sometimes. And me, yeah I’m the rah-rah, hard on you, push you beyond anything you’ve ever imagined, but at the same time, you can come in my office and we can talk about that girlfriend that just dumped you. We can get through it. We can push through it. I don’t care how late it is.”
And his wife, Cissy, understands. Cochran said though he may work long hours, he’ll always come home at night. That’s the key for him. To be with his wife and three young children.
Cochran told the story of when the tragic tornado hit Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011. He was at the football complex when his wife called with a weather update. He told her to take the kids to their neighbor’s house and get in the basement. After he hung up the phone, Cochran rallied the players into the locker room, told them he loved them, but that he needed to go be with his family.
And off he went, driving “probably 80” miles per hour to his family.
“How do you become the best husband? The best father? You can’t define it, you gotta bring it,” Cochran said. “You gotta wake up when the kids are crying. YOU GOTTA GET IT.”
The “Fourth Quarter” program Saban and Cochran run is one of the secrets to Alabama’s success. It’s essentially total body conditioning that starts with the mind. As the strength coach, Cochran has taken the reigns. He pushes players beyond their physical and mental limits, encouraging them to bring everything they got in a positive way.
“The Fourth Quarter program is something special to us,” said Johnson. “When that fourth quarter comes around, we feel like we have the upper hand on our opponents no matter who it is. It makes us work harder, prepare harder, give a little bit more effort. He holds everyone accountable.”
The mental aspect of the program is similar to Cochran’s parents leaving inspirational quotes in his lunch bag. Cochran will sit down with each player and have them write out their goals. He then instructs them to tape that piece of paper on the mirror in front of the sink where they brush their teeth.
Unless he went into each player’s bathroom, Cochran wouldn’t know if they all do what their told, but he can tell if the focus isn’t there in the weight room and on the practice fields.
“Ahhh it’s pretty obvious, pretty obvious,” he said. “Because if you think about it, you put that goal right in the mirror. Guess what you’re looking at after you put your goal there? Yourself. And are you living up to what your goal is?”
The physical aspect occurs in Cochran’s haven, the weight room.
As a strength coach, of course Cochran looks at his players’ numbers, but to him, the most important thing to see in the weight room is, “How hard are you going to work when you’re not feeling it?”
Former Crimson Tiders, like Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson, had some of the best numbers Cochran has seen, but he also brought the right attitude and mindset everyday. As did Julio Jones and Dont’a Hightower.
As for current players, Cochran has been pleased with Alabama’s rising stars.
“You’ve got some puppies that are monsters,” he said. “Guys that are really impressive strength-wise, you look at their numbers and you gotta hold them back. I mean [Amari] Cooper and [T.J.] Yeldon, you really gotta be like, ‘Woah, you really can’t go anymore than that.’ Landon Collins is the same way.”
Those are the puppies, but as far as veterans go, it’s easy to guess which player is the gym rat.
“You see Jesse Williams and what he’s become and how he works,” Cochran said. “I mean, he beats me in the office EVERY DAY. Every day. I mean every day he’s there workin’ out. He’s warming up for my warm up of a workout.”
Cochran has tried to pull the reins on Williams, but it doesn’t work. “He’s just going to come back and do it anyway,” Cochran said.
Can he tell if a guy isn’t giving it 100 percent in the weight room than he won’t give it 100 percent on the field?
“I believe you can,” Cochran said. “Those are questions that Saban does ask me before we get into the Fourth Quarter program and before we get into spring ball. But that’s where numbers come in and coach sees that.”
When Alabama takes the field at Sun Life Stadium tonight to face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, Cochran will be the one riling up the players in the locker room, during warmups and throughout the game on the sideline. He’ll jump around and scream, “YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!” inspiring the Tide with his positive energy.
The Crimson Tide has a chance to win its third national championship in four years and second in a row. This next title is something that’s written down on all the little sheets of paper that hang on the players’ bathroom mirrors. It’s also something that’s written down on a little piece of paper that Cochran has.
“Ten national championships, baby,” Cochran said. “That’s my goal.”
He could add another one to the books tonight.
For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!