Parker Cothren was a mainstay on Penn State’s defensive line, playing in 51 career games while starting 26, before moving on to the NFL this season as an undrafted free agent.
The Nittany Lions’ former defensive tackle is now trying to catch on as a defensive end in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. The CDT recently caught up with Cothren to discuss his time in college and what’s in store for his future.
Centre Daily Times: Let me ask you first off, Parker: We’re here standing inside the Steelers’ training camp, so how does it feel to make it to this point?
Parker Cothren: It’s awesome being here because it’s something you dream of since childhood. But also staying in Pennsylvania and staying around the area that I’ve become accustomed to the last five, six years — it’s really awesome. It’s been really great so far.
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CDT: What is the biggest difference between playing in the NFL and playing in college?
PC: Right now, mainly what I’ve noticed is not having the school aspect. You can spend a little extra time watching film and your playbook because you don’t have that other commitment with school. So that’s pretty cool, just being able to focus on your craft, focusing on football.
CDT: You’ve played with some pretty talented defensive lines at Penn State. But just how much different is the talent level here, where you’re playing with experienced pros?
PC: The game is definitely faster. I figured that out on the first play I was out there. (laughs) Talent-wise, the guys here are awesome. They’re really good players, really great guys — so it’s good to learn from them since they’ve been here for a few years. The game goes fast; it definitely speeds up.
CDT: You mainly played tackle at a 4-3 defense at Penn State. What’s it like transitioning to end in a 3-4 defense with the Steelers?
PC: It’s a little tough because I was inside the last couple years at Penn State. So, being outside, I was getting used to the footing and stepping right — but, after doing it a couple times, it came back to me. There are different responsibilities and really knowing when I got to contain or come inside, but it’s not too much different to what I’m used to at Penn State. It’s not too bad.
CDT: Pittsburgh has quite a few Penn State alumni on the roster. What’s that like — do you guys still hang out much, or do you mainly keep to your position groups?
PC: We definitely talk. Jesse (James) is a good friend; Malik (Golden) and Marcus (Allen), all of them — it’s good having all those familiar faces around to talk to. Jesse’s been through it a couple times now. He knows the questions. Leading up to it, I was texting him and he was helping me out.
CDT: Looking back on your Penn State career, what is your favorite memory?
PC: Winning the Big Ten my junior year; it doesn’t get much better than that. Just the team, the whole atmosphere celebrating in the locker room; playing against Wisconsin and coming back from behind. It’s surreal; it was awesome.
CDT: The goal now has to be to make the team. How do you feel about your chances, and what do you think you still have to do to achieve that?
PC: I just need to keep doing what I’m doing, keep coming out every day working as hard as I can, trying to make a name for myself out here and keep my head down and keep working.