Ex-Steelers WR Cotchery embraces leadership role with Panthers
SAN FRANCISCO — Jerricho Cotchery wasn't “Fast Money.”
For that matter, he wasn't “Easy Money” or “Cash Money” either.
In his three years with the Steelers, Cotchery was never an official member of the Young Money Crew that included Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, but if he was, his name would have surely been “Clutch Money.”
Or maybe just “Old Money.”
“You mean OG?” Panthers receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said. “OOOOOG?”
No, not original gangster. More like old guy.
“They have a lot of nicknames for me here,” Cotchery said before playing in his first Super Bowl, at age 33.
Cotchery has spent the past two years with the Panthers after leaving the Steelers. He has been a key component in molding a young wide receiver group, sort of the way he did with the Steelers.
Sanders, who left for the Broncos the same year Cotchery went to the Panthers, said Cotchery had a lasting impact on the Young Money Crew.
“He was like a big brother to us,” Sanders said. “Jerricho is extremely spiritual, and he is going to talk to you calmly and brings a lot of positive energy to the room and that's why he took over that big brother role.”
The Steelers signed Cotchery late in training camp in 2011. Hines Ward was in his final year, and Cotchery was a calming figure with the likes of Wallace, Brown and Sanders.
“When I first met with Coach (Mike) Tomlin, they understood who I was as a player and a man,” Cotchery said. “I just wanted to make sure that showed up when I was there and how I approached the game and the professionalism part of it. I knew we had some young guys. I wouldn't take any credit for their success, but I wanted to show my best in front of them.”
Cotchery has done the same with the Panthers.
Cotchery left via free agency after the 2013 season, but it wasn't easy. He called it “tough,” and a lot of outside factors came into play, such as going home (he went to school in Raleigh, N.C.), his wife (Mercedes) being from the area and the chance to play for another contending organization.
“I think everybody knows how I felt about Pittsburgh and especially Coach Tomlin,” Cotchery said. “What a blessing it was being able to go to Pittsburgh that time in my career, and I learned so much from him and I am thankful. However, the only place that could've pulled me away from something special is Carolina.”
Cotchery played seven years with the Jets before coming to the Steelers. When he decided to sign with the Steelers, he said being part of a class organization was important to him.
“To be able to play for that organization at that point in time of my career was very, very rewarding,” Cotchery said. “That time period I will forever look back on and cherish that because I learned so much about football and what this game is really about.”
Cotchery has played in 16 of 18 games for the Panthers this season despite dealing with ankle injuries. He finished the regular season with 39 catches and three touchdowns and has five receptions for 39 yards in two playoff games.
But, just like with the Steelers, he has been a calming influence, especially on Ginn Jr.
“He means everything to our room,” Ginn Jr. said. “To have a guy come in this game that solid, who has been in this game for so long … he is a for-sure football player. He helps ground us. He helps keep us going. We help keep him going. He plays a real big part in what we do. I take my hat off to that guy. He means that much to us.”
Cotchery never was able to get a nickname with the Steelers, but Cam Newton — the king of handing out nicknames — gave one to Cotchery that stuck: Clutchery.
“He is a guy who comes up clutch,” running back Jonathan Stewart said. “He comes in the meeting room with the younger guys and makes sure they understand their roles. He is definitely one of the older guys on the team who puts the emphasis on who we are.”