By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Damon Cogdell, of Miami, has been a huge help to West Virginia University’s football program as both a player and coach.
Cogdell was a two-year starting linebacker for the Mountaineers in 1997-98, then he developed quarterback Geno Smith and sent him on to WVU four years ago.
This will be his 11th year as the head football coach at Miramar High School. And he’s a leader in WVU’s Florida connection.
Cogdell was a schoolboy standout at Miramar High, then decided to attend Chaffey College in California.
After spending two years there, he was contacted by both the University of Miami and West Virginia.
“I heard a lot of good things about coach Don Nehlen. So I decided to go there.” He was redshirted as a transfer in 1996, then was a standout linebacker in 1997-98.
Cogdell, who was 6-foot-2 and weighed 235 pounds, played in only eight games before requiring hip surgery as a junior. But he didn’t miss a game his senior year.
For his two seasons, Cogdell recorded 107 tackles, including 76 solos, one interception, one forced fumble and one recovery, two sacks and two pass break-ups.
His career-high for total tackles was 13 in a win against Virginia Tech.
At the time, Nehlen was quoted in the media guide that Cogdell demonstrated perhaps the most determined work ethic during rehab of any player during the head coach’s 21 years at WVU.
After spending two years in Georgia as an assistant coach, he got the head job at Miramar High. His 10-year record there is a most impressive 50-11.
Last year’s team went 14-1 and finished as Florida State Championship runners-up.
Cogdell said, “I certainly love coaching. That’s what I really enjoy doing.”
Asked why he chose WVU over Miami as a player, he replied:
“When I was going through the recruiting process, I decided that it was great playing for Don Nehlen. I thought he was a great guy and a great coach.
“He also had a great program. He had a great family, and the Mountaineer fans were wonderful. Those are great people up there.”
Nehlen had this to say about Cogdell in a recent interview:
“He wasn’t a naturally gifted football player. But he had enough that he became a pretty solid linebacker.”
Cogdell graduated from WVU with a degree in coaching and physical education.
Nehlen is not surprised that he has been so successful coaching at one of the best Class 8-A high schools in Florida.
“He is one of the most respected high school coaches in the country right now.” Nehlen believes having Cogdell at Miramar High is great for WVU.
“He obviously had a wonderful experience at WVU, and he’s sending us some outstanding recruits,” the Hall of Fame retiree stated.
He said he sat down and had a nice chat with his former player when the two met here last spring.
Cogdell is married and has three children, a son and two daughters.
“I enjoyed my years playing football at West Virginia,” Cogdell concluded. “I’m also enjoying coaching down here.”