Jeff Cotton is doing all he can to catch on.
The former Marana Mountain View and Pima College standout is grasping to his dream of making it in the NFL the same way he holds on to passes as a wide receiver — anything that comes his way must be hauled in with some production no matter the degree of difficulty.
“It’s been a long journey, up and down, rollercoaster,” Cotton said of his NFL odyssey since going undrafted in 2020 following his senior season at Idaho. “I’m glad I didn’t give in or give up and I just kept pushing, kept working, no matter what.
“How I felt or no matter what the circumstance was, I kept working at it. Everything panned out the way it should have.”
Cotton’s use of the past tense is encouraging when describing his challenges to get on an active NFL roster.
His high level of confidence has much to do with him believing the Green Bay Packers — his fourth NFL franchise in his three years of trying to make his mark at that level — could be the organization that finally gives him a fair opportunity to show his worth.
He has 14 snaps in his NFL career, all of them on special teams.
The arduous odyssey for Cotton, who is 25:
— Signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent on April 25, 2020, but then was waived by the team during the final roster cuts on Sept. 5, 2020. He was signed to the Chargers’ practice squad the next day.
— Signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on July 31, 2021, but then was cut by the Jaguars at the end of training camp on Aug. 31, 2021. He was re-signed to the team’s practice squad. Cotton was elevated to the active roster on Jan. 2, 2022, for the team’s Week 17 game against the New England Patriots. He made his NFL debut in the game. He signed a reserve/future contract on Jan. 10, 2022. At the end of training camp, on Aug. 30, 2022, Cotton was waived by the Jaguars.
— Signed with the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad on Sept. 14, 2022, but then was released six days later.
— Signed with the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad on Nov. 9, 2022. He signed a reserve/future contract on Jan. 10 and is hopeful of what lies ahead in OTAs and training camp with the Packers.
“The biggest thing is the mental side of the business,” said Cotton after a recent workout at Jet Sports Training, where he does most of his training while in Tucson. “I’ve had a bumpy career so far. I’m going on my fourth year and I’ve been on four teams.
“It’s crazy because I used to see that and be like, ‘Dang, he’s been on seven teams in four years.’ I’m kind of in the same position. It’s just like sticking to the process and trusting yourself and never losing faith, trusting God and just keep going, keep pushing.”
Example of day at Jet Sports Training with owner @bobbythejet (former Sunnyside & UA football player): Packers WR Jeff Cotton (@MtnLionFootball & @PimaAthletics) training near members of Gallego Intermediate’s wrestling team and Tucson Hurricanes baseball players. pic.twitter.com/4mG7sFGv3l
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 2, 2023
A reserve/futures contract for an NFL team is claiming the right to a player to formulate the 90-man roster heading into offseason workouts and training camp. The deals are usually around the minimum salary commensurate with the player’s experience and are not guaranteed.
Cotton, 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, trained recently at Jets Sports Training wearing a light Packers jacket.
Bobby Rodriguez, a former Sunnyside and Arizona football player, works primarily with Cotton as the owner of Jet Sports Training.
He puts Cotton through the training regimen most NFL players are experiencing this time of year, two months before OTAs start after the draft takes place at the end of April.
“Jeff is a great guy who trains so hard and is very determined,” Rodriguez said.
In recent months, Rodriguez has implemented the renowned Bommarito Performance Systems regimen with Cotton after Rodriguez and Jet Sports Training coach Sam Medina completed a challenging two-day BPS certification course in Miami.
Numerous NFL players use the Bommarito system that includes drills focusing on speed, agility, leaping ability and strength (225-pound bench press test).
“It’s awesome, I actually love it,” Cotton said of Rodriguez’s use of the BPS. “I’ve had a plan the last couple of years of how I’m going to attack my offseason and that program is what I was thinking.
“I’m grateful he got in contact with him and we’re working with that program because I think it will help a lot.”
Cotton includes Rodriguez and former Mountain View coach Bam McRae, another former Arizona player, among those who have supported him to get through the trying times he has experienced.
When asked if he has ever thought of stopping his pursuit of an NFL career, Cotton said, “Oh, I definitely have.”
“The people like Bobby and the close people I surround myself with are constantly providing me positive info and feedback when I’m down,” he added. “I appreciate my family a lot and close friends because it was tough. My rookie year I didn’t know what to do and I was kind of lost in a sense.
“I’m just grateful for the people I have in my life.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.