Football great reflects on his time as a Falcon
November 16, 2006
For most people, football and pharmacy do not go hand in hand.
Mark Cota is an exception.
Though the former UW-River Falls quarterback now spends his days administering flu shots and giving prescriptions a final check instead of calling plays and rushing down Ramer Field, Cota, a pharmacist at Red Wing Corner Drug, said his three years on the team left him with a lasting respect for the Falcons.
Cota is not the only one who had fond memories of his time as No. 13 — the 39-year-old still holds an unbeatable UWRF record.
During the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons, Cota obtained a lengthy list of honors. He lettered all three seasons, won the Pizza Hut All-American Honorable Mention in 1986, was WSUC All Conference in 1986, led the Falcons in scoring 96 points in 1986 as well as leading in total offense in 1986 and 1987, was the UWRF Most Valuable Player in 1986, holds the all-time record for single-season total offense in (rushing and passing yards) with 1,767 yards, and was inducted into the UWRF Hall of Fame in 2005.
The records Cota achieved under coach Mike Farley’s reign did come at a price — one of his least favorite aspects of a football team — practice.
“Football is a lot of the same stuff over and over again,” he said.
While practice was not his preferred football activity, Cota found his niche in competition.
“Game time was most fun,” he said.
Although his favorite game memory is “beating La Crosse at Homecoming in ‘86,”
Cota said he is very proud of his 2005 induction into the UWRF Hall of Fame.
“It was really a great honor and a great sense of accomplishment,” he said.
The former quarterback’s accolades do not stop at an individual level.
Cota also led the UWRF football team to WSUC Conference Championships in 1985, 1986 and 1987. The Falcons also led the NCAA in team rushing in 1986 with 3,614 yards.
Despite such recognition, Cota remains modest about his football abilities.
“I knew we were good as a team,” he said. “But I didn’t think I was, whatever.”
Though Cota did not realize what kind of player he was, his teammate Dave Knoke did and still does.
“Mark Cota was a great quarterback,” he said. “He was all around a good guy. People respected him; he didn’t treat anyone differently.”
In addition to being a team leader, Knoke said Cota was able to withstand being knocked around by other teams.
“They would light him up,” he said. “They would drill him and he would pop right back up. He didn’t like to lose.”
In retrospect, Knoke is not sure where Cota’s accomplishments on the football field would have stopped, as he only played three years.
“I don’t know how many records he could have broken,” he said.
Even though UWRF Football Coach John O’Grady did not play with Cota like Knoke did, he still has something to say about the All-American quarterback.
“Cota was definitely one of our all-time best when you look at winning games and championships,” he said.
Though Cota’s days on the field are a memory, there may be another generation playing football in the future, as his 5-year-old son, Zach, is already a Green Bay Packer fan.
In addition to Zach, Cota’s family includes his wife, Juli, and two daughters, 11-year-old Mikayla and 8-year-old McKenzie.
While 2013 is the earliest his oldest daughter Mikalya would be in college, she and her siblings can already be assured their dad would support them going to UWRF for their collegiate careers.
“I highly recommend anyone going to school there,” he said. “I loved going to school there.”