Back in the misty days of early 1998, the turf shoe was on the other foot for Jim Cochran.
"I was with the National Scouting Combine under Duke Baab," Cochran, the Jets' retiring national scout, explained Saturday night after his final 2012 draft duties were done. "At the spring combine meetings that year the teams began hiring the National scouts. They held a 'draft.' Dick Haley directed the Jets' drafting then. He was very professional, as he always was. He called me and said, 'Jim, we just drafted you. You work for us.'
"All I knew was that the Jets were in New York," said Cochran, who's been a heartlands kind of guy his entire life. "I really didn't know Dick, but I was pleased that somebody wanted me. I didn't know if I was a first-round pick or a 12th-round pick. But I got the same phone call as the players get today, and I was pleased to receive it."
And then, 15 years later, Cochran got to make some similar calls. Informing draft candidates that they've just been selected by the Jets is a duty and an honor that normally falls to owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan.
But late Saturday afternoon, after the Jets plucked safety Antonio Allen from South Carolina and wideout Jordan White from Western Michigan with their Round 7 compensatory selections, the silver-haired scout with the master's degree in education was the man on the phone to the draftees.
"They didn't let me pick 'em but they let me call 'em," Cochran said. "I got to tell them, 'Congratulations, you're a Jet.' "
Before Cochran became a Jet, he wore several hats in the college football arena. He went from being the head coach at Independence JC in Kansas to jobs at Kansas, Missouri (his alma mater), Hawaii, New Mexico and Western Michigan. His work as a recruiting coordinator and academic adviser in addition to his coaching duties made him a good candidate for National and shortly after for the Jets' scouting department.
Like most scouts, Cochran finds it hard to toot his own horn about his proudest scouting moments.
"I was always just much more into how well our team did. I never felt that a player was 'my guy,' " he said. "When we went to those AFC championship games, and players you scouted, whether they were star players or not, are playing in those games, that's the purpose of our work, for the team to be successful."
But push Cochran a little and he'll admit there are several Jets he's kept tabs on, none bigger than Sione "Big Bo" Pouha, the third-round DT out of Utah in 2005.
"I did scout Sione and I was a strong advocate for him," he recalled. "He turned into quite a player and an absolutely fine person, teammate and leader. That young man has done very well."
With this draft over, now it's time for Cochran to put the stopwatch away. He left Sunday for his home just outside Denver, where he and his wife, Roseann, now live with their whole family — two daughters, Kristin and Amy, Kristin's husband, Nick Ceriani, and granddaughters Lacey, Grace and Bella. And Kristin is expecting another child in June.
"If you look at 15 years, that's 175 to 200 nights a year on the road, so 2,500 or 3,000 nights," Cochran calculated. "A different hotel every night, just about. There are times you wake up and say, 'Where am I now? Is this Waco or Austin or Houston or New Orleans?' "
But last weekend it was Florham Park, N.J., and now it's the Denver metro area. Time for Cochran to scout out some new activities and write up one last report on a job well done.