Imagine dedicating your entire life to one sport, working your way up through playing in college, to playing in the Canadian Football League, and even making a pit stop to coach high school kids at two different schools.
But just like any job upgrade in America, when that phone rings, you’ve got to pick up and at least talk.
For Damon Cogdell, it was not the fact that a Division-I college football program wanted his services to coach, rather it was the simple fact that it was his alma mater; West Virginia University wanted Cogdell to return home where his career began.
Cogdell starred at linebacker for the Mountaineers in the late 90’s. He even won the CFL’s Grey Cup Championship as a member of the 2000 British Columbia Lions.
Excitement, joyfulness, elation – it was all there. But according to Cogdell, his dream was never to coach in college; his dream was to simply find a career that he loved.
“Well believe it or not when I finished up in Canada, I didn’t really have the aspiration to be a college coach. I didn’t know if I wanted to coach football,” he said. “I was doing strength and conditioning stuff and ended up liking football and ended up sticking with it. People were telling me I was pretty good at it. So I ended up winning a couple state championships and was winning them. But to lose one game was kind of depressing, so when I got the call to be able to coach college ball was pretty cool.
I got a call a couple years ago but I didn’t take it,” he added, “but now it’s time.”
Cogdell proved to be more than ‘good’ at coaching at the high school football level. During his time at MiramarHigh School near Miami, Fla., Cogdell led the Patriots to the Florida Class 8A State Championship in 2009. Not to mention, he compiled an overall record of 72-19 between the years of 2002-2014.
Additionally, his Miramar teams always advanced to at least the second round of the state playoffs each year under his watch.
He was asked about the biggest difference between coaching high school athletes as opposed to college kids. His answer may surprise you, but admitted the biggest contrast was the structure of the stadium he walks into on a daily basis.
“I guess the facilities – that’s the biggest part,” Cogdell noted. “The actual aspect of the camp part is pretty much the same deal. I did it the same way. I tried to run a college-style practice at Miramar. But other than that [the biggest difference] is probably the facilities and probably the number of help with the trainers and coaches.”
In case one does not follow high school football recruiting on a national level, MiramarHigh School was regarded as one of the top programs in the nation under the direction of Damon Cogdell. Some of his former players include past WVU standouts Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Ivan McCartney, among others. He also coached former five-star cornerback Tracy Howard, who is currently a member of the University of Miami football program.
Despite coaching a variety of top-notch high school football players and sending more than 50 former players to Division-I football programs, Cogdell noted that the neatest thing about taking the job at WVU was to reconvene with the Miramar players that had been coached by him not too long before.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said with a smile. “I’ve got about three walk-on’s and I’ve got three scholarship kids. So it’s pretty cool. One of my guys actually texted me the other night; he’s very happy and excited. He said he’s up here with no worries. So that’s great; I like to see that. That makes me smile.”
Devonte Mathis figures to be the next Miramar product to get the most playing time at the wide receiver position this season.
But in reference to the future of the Miramar-to-Morgantown pipeline, Cogdell is now on the other side of it all. Serving as a mentor and high school coach, to now having the chance to recruit those same players, he confessed it’s a rather unique situation to be able to sign the kids that he grew up coaching.
“It’s gone well. I talk to a majority of the coaches at Miramar about three or four days a week,” he said. “A lot of the kids hit me up on the inbox or on the twitter all the time. It’s just been hard since I’m not able to pick up the phone and call those young fellas anymore. So I’m more of a social media guy in aspects of sending inbox messages to those guys. Other than that, it’s been tough. I miss those guys and they were good for me for all the years I was at Miramar – even my guys that I deal with in South Florida, as a whole, with high school football.”
In terms of the 2015 recruiting class, West Virginia already has verbal commitments from three Miramar standouts in running back Alex Anderson, wide receiver Kahlil Lewis and safety Kendrell McFadden.
The fact that Cogdell departed Miramar for Morgantown does not put a halt to the expedition of talented South Florida high school football players heading to WVU. If anything, it reemphasizes his grip on the fertile recruiting landscape of Florida.
Anyone that knows Mountaineer Football completely understands the importance of recruiting the state of Florida at a high level. With the addition of Damon Cogdell, not only will the recruiting expand, but they’re getting a man who loves his university, the same way he cared for his players at Miramar High.