Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Carolina Panthers, Jerricho Cotchery
Gives It All He’s Got Becoming the Man God Created Him to Be
Raised as the second-youngest of 13 children in Birmingham, Alabama, Jerricho Cotchery did a fair amount of learning by example – both good and bad — early on. “I watched everything going on around me,” he now says. “I still made my fair share of mistakes. But, I was able to learn from those mistakes at a young age and I’m very thankful for that. Seeing the outcome of the decisions guys around me made allowed me to get to where I am now.”
Although the surroundings may have sometimes been tough for a young child, the love he witnessed between his parents embedded in Jerricho early lessons about commitment and devotion. “I have absolutely great parents. My dad struggled with alcoholism, but as a child I was able to witness the way that he grew past his problems. And I saw my mom praying for him constantly, and I saw how God answered that prayer for her. To see them staying together to this day is an inspiration to me.”
Just as important as their marriage was their spiritual commitment. Although when he was a child he so dreaded going to church that he would hide under the bed until his mother dragged him out on Sunday mornings, he now says that “the most important thing my parents did for me was show me the way to the Lord. That’s the best thing you can do for your kids.”
Jerricho made big mistakes early on, as he tells it – mostly notably by becoming a gang member at the age of twelve. Now he speaks openly about it in hopes of preventing other boys from following that same path. “Joining a gang when I was young was a bad decision. Rivalry with different neighborhoods and different gangs: that’s not the way to live, watching your back every day, going out different times of the night partying and all those things I shouldn’t have been doing at a young age.”
Then, when Jerricho was sixteen, his friend Brian was killed in a car accident. After that, everything changed. “I guess you could say that’s when the light bulb went off,” Jerricho says. “I had to think about Brian and the type of guy that he was. He was a humble guy with a strong work ethic, always willing to help others.”
Not only did the accident yank him off a path of self-destruction; it also put him on the road to a new relationship with a higher power. “I just kept wanting to ask, how could he be gone this soon? But God has reasons. Now, looking back at it, thinking about the type of guy that Brian was, I see that maybe he did live a full life, because he was here and he had a purpose for that time on this earth: he impacted my life and he impacted everyone else around him.“
Being willing to question God’s methods has been an important theme ever since the accident, Jerricho says. “Thinking about those things, I began to believe that God was speaking to me,” he says. “After that I was more able to focus on what I needed to be in life, but I still had a ways to go.”
A burgeoning talent for football helped him to straighten himself out. “The kids that don’t have sports to preoccupy them the way I did are worse off, and they’re the ones who end up in gangs and stay there. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sports or a professional goal, like wanting to be a doctor or a lawyer. You need to find something to pursue in life to get out of that situation.”
Some of his friends didn’t make it out of the dangerous life as easily as he did. Some are now in prison as a result; others met with even worse consequences. “I had a friend that got killed. And he had five kids and one on the way. The reality is that my friends are still struggling. It’s still happening.”
Stronger and wiser after the car accident, gang-free and at the beginning of a new path toward spirituality, Jerricho went to North Carolina State University, where he was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and broke school records with 200 career receptions and 15 career 100-yard receiving games. In 2004 the Jets drafted him out of North Carolina State, and he has played for that team ever since.
Another turning point came when he met his wife, Mercedes. “Before I met her, I lacked the inspiration to be the overall man and husband and father that I need to be,” he says. She’s definitely an inspiration to me and I’m blessed to be able to have her as my wife.”
Jerricho again pondered the mysteries of God’s ways when he and Mercedes found out that they could not have biological children. The enormous disappointment of this discovery was followed by the decision to adopt, then a crushing emotional blow when the birth mother of the infant boy they were in the process of adopting had a change of heart. Jerricho admits wondering what God’s reasons were for causing this kind of disappointment and frustration in his and his wife’s life, but he believes the reasons became clear less than two weeks after the adoption fell through when another baby – their daughter Jacey – became available to them. “I was totally against adopting beforehand and God changed my heart in a matter of one night. In your weakest moments, when you can’t find strength within yourself, you have to get it from God. He gave me the answer when He gave me the little girl that I said that I always wanted.”
The couple eventually welcomed two more children. As he and his wife raise their children, Jerricho strives to be a good husband and father, an inspiring role model, and an effective community leader. Along with aiding various local initiatives, he and his wife established the Cotchery Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that benefits underprivileged youth (www.cotcheryfoundation.com). Meanwhile, he also keeps his sights on the importance of doing well at his profession. “God has blessed me with this talent to play football. I don’t want to go to Judgment Day and hear God say, ‘Why didn’t you use your talent to the best of your ability?’ He saved me and gave me a chance in life and so now I want to make the best of it.”
Jerricho is a magnificent role model who has an unswerving commitment to serve underprivileged children. He helps them identify their dreams and empowers them to uncover their ideal path to realize them. His admirable character and steadfast dedication to community service has not gone unnoticed. He has received several awards for his admirable leadership, his generous spirit and his significant contribution to others.
With his sights always set on keeping to the right path and applying the life lessons he has learned, Jerricho Cotchery walks the walk and talks the talk of an Insightful Player® team member.
Instant replay of Jerricho’s guiding principles:
Live in such a way that people who know you well could say after you are gone that you were the man or woman that God intended for you to be.
Be a source of comfort and emotional sustenance to your family.
Hold yourself up as a role model to young people in your community and in your family.
Recognize that everyone makes bad decisions; your success comes not from making only good decisions but from learning what you did wrong.
Believe sincerely that you can reach any goal you set for yourself, if it is truly a priority for you.
Observe the choices made by those around you. Learn how good choices and bad choices alike shape people’s futures and cause specific outcomes.
Maintain a lifelong commitment to strengthening your relationship with your God.
Identify your skills, passions and talents, for they are what will save you and keep you on course.
Look to God for help and strength whenever you feel you need it. What you cannot handle in your life, God can.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book, INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610.
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Jerricho Cotchery is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.