Busy, busy Dave Cochran is going to talk while he drives.
He’s tooling along Monday afternoon in his old Chevy Suburban, which just had new windows installed where he’d previously covered the openings with black plastic bags. And he’s talking on a cellphone that someone just set up for him.
Because strangers are suddenly doing many things for Dave, who has recently become a sensation in Kansas City as “the homeless Good Samaritan.” He’s also a recovering, convicted felon.
“I’m mind-boggled,” he says, contemplating the vast reaction to the story spread on social media that he had, without knowing who he was helping, gotten Kansas City Chiefs lineman Jeff Allen’s car unstuck from a snowbank Saturday as Allen was trying to get himself to Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs’ NFL playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.
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“I don’t deserve all this,” Cochran said Monday.
He’s going to talk about his past, everything he’s been through, his addictions, his time in prison, his dreams of what can come of this wellspring of love for a fractured man . . .
But hang on, he says. A guy is stopped alongside the road, and Cochran pulls over to see if he needs help.
“That’s what I do,” he says.
Even before his rescuing of the Chiefs’ lineman changed everything, Cochran said, he was trying to get his life right.
He has a son he wants to see and he has to be sober to do it, he said. And he’s been clean now three months straight.
He has a fiancee and he wants to do right by her, too.
It’s overwhelming to him, the people who are coming from all directions to reward him. A GoFundMe account on his behalf raised its $10,000 goal in less than a day; a dental group wants to offer free work; a veterinarian’s office wants to care for the little dog that was in Cochran’s arms as all the news media were talking to him Sunday.
Cochran feels a responsibility, he said, to make good of it.
“We’ve got a lot of caring, good-hearted people in Kansas City,” he said. “I want to use this to build myself up. I want to give back.”
He’s not hiding his past.
He only came to the public’s attention because Allen, after the Chiefs won, went to Twitter to try to track down the “nice guy” he knew only as “Dave” who helped him out of the snow. Allen wanted to give him two tickets to the coming AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead.
Allen’s tweet drew thousands of reactions and eventually reached its intended target.
Cochran replied, and all those thousands — including media — who had caught sight of the conversation were captivated by the story of a homeless man, living out of his truck, selflessly helping others.
It’s a harder story than that, Cochran admits.
“I wish I didn’t have the background I had,” he said.
He was in trouble even before his teen years, he said, spending time in the confined Hilltop School run by the county’s juvenile court.
He’s experience personal trauma. A criminal record including theft, tampering with motor vehicles and a meth charge caught up with him.
“I’ve been through all that,” he said. “I was in prison from 2008 to 2015 with a six-month break in between . . . People gave me chances. People didn’t give up on me.”
If he could start over, he said, he’d like to be able to get a career helping children with autism, or even pediatrics, he said.
“Autistic children are so cool, mark my words,” he said. “They are smarter than we’d ever believe.”
He’s worked with towing companies and he can see himself working steady, putting a family together with his fiancee.
The man who started the GoFundMe account — a stranger to Cochran — didn’t know the depths of Cochran’s story when he set it up. But he’s not surprised that a homeless man who did someone a favor has a hard past.
“I hope this gives Dave the leg-up to get on the path that he wants,” said Justin Manford, a graduate student in Manhattan, Kan. He is “flabbergasted” by how quickly donors met the fund’s goal. “I’m blown away.”
Cochran does not know what to do with all that’s coming to him. He’s “rambling,” he said, trying to sort it all out.
But he knows this good fortune can help him on his road to redemption.
“I’ve lost a lot of years,” he said. “I want a better life for me, my fiancee and my son.”
Whatever comes, he’ll still be the guy who pulls over and checks on a stranger who might need help. Because that’s who he’s always been.