It doesn’t get any bigger when it comes to the Green Bay Packers.
Randall Cobb’s wait to the second day of April’s NFL Draft might have been a frustrating one, but the Packers made sure the former Alcoa High School star and University of Kentucky All-American knew how much they wanted him when they had Taylor announce Cobb’s selection alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at Radio City Music Hall.
Like Cobb, Taylor himself was once a second round selection, the former LSU Tiger going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Vince Lombardi-coached Packers of the 1960s. When Cobb reached the podium the night of the 2011 draft, Taylor reached over to whisper a few words of advice.
“He told me to cherish the moment and do everything I’d been doing to get to this point,” Cobb said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
The days since the 2011 draft have seen Cobb crisscross the country in a holding pattern as the NFL and the decertified player’s union work out a new collective bargaining agreement. The state’s Mr. Football winner his senior year at Alcoa three years ago, Cobb finally made it home last Saturday for an autograph session at the Martin Luther King Center in Alcoa.
The line stretched out the front door the full two hours as Cobb sat and signed memorabilia for family and friends. One fan was taken by surprise when told by Cobb there was no charge for the latter’s signature.
“This is family,” Cobb said. “How am I going to charge family? These are the people that raised me and got me where I am.”
One of those people is Mary Scott, whose impact on her grandson’s football career came full circle last weekend.
Scott not only raised Cobb’s father, Randall Sr. She babysat to make ends meet when Randall Sr. was growing up, and one of the children Scott cared for, Claire Stone, director of client services and media for Athletic Resource Management, the Memphis firm representing Cobb, stood across the room Saturday. Stone and Randall Cobb Sr. were classmates at Alcoa.
“Mrs. Mary used to beat my heinie when I was growing up,” Stone said.
Cobb made it clear Saturday’s autograph session was not to be “a business appearance,” she said.
“‘Not in my community,’” Stone said Cobb told her. “Part of that is giving back. I think he (Cobb) is a firm believer in it takes a village to raise a child.”
Alcoa coach Gary Rankin agrees wholeheartedly with Stone’s assessment.
“You hear it said all the time you hope they don’t forget where they came from,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “That’ll never happen with him.”
The now-chiseled, 5-foot-11 Cobb is certainly a child no longer. A record-setting career at Kentucky included selection to both The Associated Press and “Sports Illustrated” All-American teams. A receiver, quarterback and kick returner with the Wildcats, Cobb concluded his career in Lexington last fall as the Southeastern Conference’s record holder for single-season all-purpose yardage, breaking the old mark held by former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.
Draft analysts have spoken glowingly of Cobb’s NFL potential. ESPN’s Todd McShay said the former Tornado “can string together multiple moves” to get open and raves about “how smooth he is.” Others say he’s a “shifty and firm runner once the ball is in his hands.”
Such acclaim can be tough to keep a handle on, but Stone is unconcerned. The secret of Cobb’s success, she said, is really no secret at all.
“He will outwork . . . anybody,” she said. “Anybody.”
It’s that aspect of her son, not the records, the All-American selections, she prizes about her son, Tina Cobb said.
Randall showed promise right away as football player as a speedy back for the Eagleton Knights, 7-year-old grasshoppers.
“He was the smallest thing on the team,” she said. “I was really scared.”
Even then, Cobb was already so quick. It wasn’t long before his stick-and-move running style resulted in his first touchdown.
“I remember high-stepping into the end zone” he said, “and nobody was even near me.”
As Cobb’s football career progressed, Tina said Randall Sr. and her made sure their son never took his successes for granted. A football career can end with one play, she said.
“I never tried to look ahead,” she said. “With a football player, you never know if they’re going to make it to the next game.”
As friends and former teammates of his son filed past, Randall Sr. stood at a distance. It was symbolic in many respects.
Letting go has come in stages for Tina and him, Randall Sr. said. First, there was Lexington.
“To me, it was time to let him go to be a man,” Randall Sr. said.
When the NFL and the decertified union finally reaches an agreement, with many feeling it’ll happen in the next couple of weeks to allow teams to sign draft picks and free agents and prepare for the season, Randall Sr. said he won’t vary his approach when Randall leaves for Wisconsin.
“I don’t think I’ll have to say anything,” he said. “He knows what it’s going to take.”
Cobb helped launched Alcoa’s current run of seven consecutive state championships during his prep career. When he moved on to Lexington, Scott’s allegiances traveled up I-75 right along with him.
Now that her grandson is a Green Bay Packer?
“I’m going to have to get me one of those cheese heads,” Scott said.
With Cobb crediting an entire community with helping him reach the NFL, she isn’t likely to be the only one.