It's been four years since Jack Cochran roamed a football sideline.
That's about to change.
Cochran, who starred at New London and later came back to coach the Whalers to a state title in 2008, was named head football coach at Harding High School in Bridgeport on Saturday.
"It's a great feeling," said Cochran, who is hoping to land a teaching job in the system as well. "It's been a long time."
Cochran, winner of eight state titles during coaching stints at Bloomfield, New Britain and New London, was fired in the spring of 2009 after it was discovered Cochran broke CIAC rules for organizing off-season baseball workouts (he had been hired to coach baseball, too).
He has a career coaching record of 160-24-2, but takes over a Harding program which has struggled with numbers and is just 9-91 the past 10 seasons, Bridgeport schools athletic director Neil Kavey told the Connecticut Post.
"We had a chance to hire arguably the best high school football coach in the state," Kavey told the Post. "And when you have a program that has changed coaches as many times as it has in the last few years, you know you need to take a shot with somebody with that skill and reputation."
Cochran, who spent his first day on the job talking to about 15 Harding student athletes on three different basketball playgrounds in Bridgeport, compared the challenge to that of his first coaching job at Bloomfield.
"Very much a deja vu moment like Bloomfield," he said. "It's a very similar situation to Bloomfield, which had a rough string of 10-12 years before I got there. There are a lot of needy kids who need some direction and somebody who cares. Everybody I've talked to has been great and we just want to make a difference."
He's also looking forward to coaching in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, one of the top football conferences in the state.
"That's what made it intriguing, too," Cochran said. "There are some great programs, like Staples, Greenwich and New Canaan, and some of the top coaches in the history of the state ... I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Cochran said he plans to spend a good part of the summer "hitting the streets and playgrounds."
"My goal is to talk to every boy in school," said Cochran, who enjoys working in urban settings. "It's very rewarding. I've found kids are the most grateful ... they're the hardest to get to know, but once you get them to trust you, I love the fact that I can become a big influence on their life."
- Chuck Banning