An Interview with current Coventry Jets WR Mark 'Bird' Cohen. Cohen holds the British record for most receiving yards in a career, and also most TD's in a season (a massive 33 in 2005). He also played for the London Monarchs in 1995, and has won a national championship with the Birmingham Bulls in 1995 also. Not only that, but he also holds the records for most caps for the Great Britain Lions, in a national career stretching back to 1995.

Interview conducted November 2006

Photo courtesy of

How and when did you very first ‘get into’ American football? Did you play youth American football?

I remember a friend of mine, Lee Wright, who played running back for Sutton Royals asking if I fancied playing American football. We both played soccer too and I was a goalkeeper so thought I’d give it a go. I never got into any youth football teams as I started playing at 18.

What was your first senior club?

Sutton Royals.

How and when did you come to play for the Birmingham Bulls?

I first went to Birmingham Bulls in 1991 after having my first real successful season with the Redditch Arrows. At that time the Bulls had Michael Price an absolutely awesome receiver who I very much respect to this day. Along with Mikey there were about 10 other receivers and so I didn’t get a look in as I was always at the back of the lines waiting my turn. It was then that I decided to go to Coventry and play along side Coach McManus for the 92 season and played as well as scored against Birmingham in a friendly which we went on to lose. In 93 I came to Birmingham and promised myself to make it as a starter.

'Bird' vs Yorkshire Rams in 2006. Photo courtesy of

Who is the best coach you have ever played for and why?

Coach Don Turner Bulls 94-95 was an awesome coach. He took so much time out for the team and always studied film like you wouldn’t believe. However I also learnt so much of Lionel Taylor when I played for the London Monarchs in 95. Both coaches took the time out to teach me the tricks and also examine the way I run routes, catch and played in general. They also would bench me in an instant whenever I would mouth off, (which can be a lot) and this really put me in my place.

What do you consider to be your best season so far?

I would say playing for Birmingham in the ’94 season sticks with me as I had 76 receptions and 1000+ yrds and the calibre of teams then was of a very high standard.

The 2005 season with the Jets will always be a huge memory for me too for breaking the TD receptions record that has stood for so long.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

I will never forget beating London in the ’95 final in Solihull. That was the first time I’d actually scored on a 50+ touchdown against them and they had always been a thorn in our side. Also playing against Madrid for GB and scoring the winning touchdown also holds fond memories. I remember Stuart Franklin coming into the huddle and giving us the routes and telling us to get out of bounds as we were almost out of time. I told him that there was no safety covering the middle of the field and to throw a post. I suppose I was lucky enough to catch it because if I didn’t, I would of cost my team mates the chance of going to Italy in the finals and probably would never have played for the GB team again.

You have played with some exceptional QB’s over the years who do you rate as the finest?

It would be unfair of me to name one or maybe two QB’s when there has been so many of such a good calibre. Of course Brad Johnson at the Monarchs has to be the number one choice. I didn’t realise the velocity of the ball that that man could produce. Bob Thompson, Dave Stanton, John Riggs, all great QB’s I had the pleasure to be on the pitch with. I always wanted to play a game with Valentine (Olympians) as my QB but London was just too far for me to travel to.

Also Stuart Franklin, Jason Elliot were amongst the greats that have played this game.

What was the best game you have ever played in, and also the best game personally?

I think the easier of the two questions would be to answer the best game personally. I played against Glasgow Lions in Tamworth for the Bulls back in ’94 and caught 16 catches in the game. I remember needing one more to tie the all time record of 17 and I caught it but got called for offensive interference and then was taken out of the game as it was the fourth quarter, so I’m joint second on that record.

The best game I’ve ever played in is tough, as there are memories of Kent ’05 final, Bulls ’95 final, GB ’97. I think the final in Amiens France against the French in the final has to top it for me. Yes we won but the whole desire and "family" that we built up over those 12gruelling days could never be done again. The entire team from Coach Riq, down to the nutters from London Evans, Marco, all had inspirational effects on the whole team.

Cohen comes up with the ball vs the Olympians in the 1995 national final

Who do you rate as the best import players to play over here?

Greg Harris for Bulls, Clive Otto (Cov Jags), Warren Valentine Moon Olympians, Russ Jensen Bulls, and the QB up in Scotland who had an amazing skill of hitting Scott Couper every time, sorry I can’t remember his name (Mike Hasskamp).

Who do you rate as the best British and American coaches to have worked over here?

Coach Riq for London his record says it all. I would also rate coaches Messenger, Robertson, McManus, Stanton, Mulhall all great British coaches.

For American coaches I would have to rate Lionel Taylor Monarchs, Coach Don Bulls 94-95, Coach Moon for their wisdom and knowledge of the sport and also their mentoring abilities.

Who are the NFL and NCAA College teams you support?

I only really follow the NFL and have always been a 49ers fan, Jerry Rice at that time. I’m an avid fan of great partnerships on the field and I think there isn’t much better than Manning- Harrison at this present time, shame there doesn’t seem to be a partnership at the 49er’s at the moment.

College football I only watch occasionally and haven’t really got any teams that I follow as such. I suppose Notre Dame games are always entertaining to watch or Navy /Army match ups are also good entertainment.

What’s your best receiving records?

Jets Bulls this season ’06 I had 11 for 228yrds which puts me up there in the top 6 in one of the records. It was a little bit special as they are an excellent team and have some great athletes. However if it wasn’t for all the Offensive lines that I’ve had the privilege to play games with, then I would never get the records, catches, recognition.

Cohen vs Birmingham Bulls, 2006 - Picture courtesy of

The ’06 final against Bristol too gave me 11 for 154 with a td. This was also a little special as I broke my ankle in the beginning of the 2nd quarter but taped and played on.

You’ve been playing for the GB lions since 1995; indeed you are the current record holder for most caps, what have been the highlights of those times?

As already mentioned I think the wins in Amiens and Madrid in 97 were highlights for myself. The whole GB experience though will stay with me forever. The longer I’ve been blessed to play, the more of a prankster I become along with Paul Newey, Steve Coles, Steve Too smooth Booth. Just being picked and playing alongside other great receivers, Simms, Palumbo, Innis is always a pleasure and an achievement which I’m proud of.

You joined Coventry Jets in 2005 after they had gone 0-10 in the previous season in Division Two, why was that?

I had retired and was asked by Coach McManus and Paul Newey if I fancied helping out with the team and possibly player / coaching. After coach Riq had given me the inspiration to play again with the GB squad I kind of got the bug back.

I watched one of Coventry’s last games and just knew there could be such an improvement with the right attitude, coaches and players and it has been a decision that I will never regret. The whole team wants to succeed and I have never seen this kind of desire since playing at Birmingham.

Two championships later, your decision vindicated then?

I think it was a decision that I will never ever regret though it was hard to play against some of my old team mates at the Bulls. The Jets organisation has been outstanding and have helped and supported me throughout my return and I just hope that I can continue to repay their faith.

What next for Mark Cohen? Presumably you play on as the Jets prepare for their first season in Division one?

Yes this is the farewell tour I’m afraid though I’d like to play on. I feel though with the young talent that we have backing us up, it’ll not be too long before these guys are the next future receivers for GB. Hossack, Dom, Nathan are all exceptional athletes who are easily capable of performing at this level.

For me I’ll be getting married in September ’07 and the wife is already preparing to swap my cleats for slippers. 

Do you think that the Jets will challenge for the Division One title in their first season?, and maybe Europe?

Most definitely. We are more than capable of reaching the final this year as long as the guys prepare both mentally and physically. There are no easy games this season coming and it’ll be tough but we are in control of our own destiny.

As for Europe, well I don’t know anything about the teams we are first playing and to be honest don’t want to. Each week will be a brand new game, with another team wanting to take our unbeaten record from us. We have to work and play hard but nothing is impossible with a little belief and faith.

Will you get into coaching when your playing career finishes?

Definitely. I would love to put back into this sport all the good I have got out of it. Receivers coach on the National team is my ultimate aim and goal but I’ll start at Coventry and see how it progresses.