Randall Cobb: The Future
The green room is empty, of players that is, except for one. He clenches his cell phone in his left hand, eager for it to ring. When it does he shows a faint smile and turns round to hug his mum. Randall Landonald Cobb II may have had to wait till the second round of the 2011 draft to get selected, a day longer than he anticipated, but being the 64th pick didn’t prevent him from staying positive.
“It’s been an up and down last 24 hours for me, but I would have been happy to wait until the seventh round if it meant I could be picked by the Packers” he says on the podium, minutes after shaking the commissioner’s hand on the stage. “I think I can bring versatility to the team, on kick returns, in the slot, on the outside, whatever they want me to do”. It took him only mid-way into the third quarter of his first NFL game to show it, running 108 yards for a kick return TD against the Saints. He never looked back.
Alcoa Tennessee is a town located South of Knoxville, it has a population of just 7,744 (as of the 2000 census). That’s where Randall spent his childhood; playing football at high school he won four state championships and received the prestigious “Mr Football” trophy for his efforts, from the TSSAA (Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association). It was only a matter of time before coaches were knocking on his door scouting his talent.
Picking the Kentucky Wildcats as his college was never going to be an easy ride, they are not exactly a powerhouse in the college football world, but that didn’t stop him from demanding attention. Winning the University of Kentucky MVP, being on the All-SEC-first-team two years in a row and breaking the Wildcat record for all purpose TDs, to many would be a lifetime’s worth of achievements, but Randall has always aimed higher.
“We were just not motivated out there, it’s hard to get motivated for games like these, that’s not who we are or how we play, we need to be accountable and execute next time”, expressed Randall after playing Charleston Southern in his Junior year at UK. Kentucky won that game, but Randall doesn’t only see positives after winning; He takes nothing for granted, just one of his mature qualities he showcased to Lexington on a weekly basis during the fall.
Playing in the South Eastern Conference means going against brutal defences most weeks, like: Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia, and what’s most impressive is that Cobb played against those teams in a variety of positions. Not only did he play as a wide receiver, but as a quarterback, running back, kick placeholder and kick returner during his stellar three year college career. He lead the ‘Cats in receiving two out of his three years, in yards and TDs, and was top three in rushing in all three of his college seasons.
Going into what would be his final college game against Tennessee, Randall was unsure if he would return for a senior year. “I left it all out on the field (against Vanderbilt, his last home game at Commonwealth Stadium), it crossed my mind for a minute that I may not play in front my home fans again, but I had to keep focused”. This uncertainty is similar to his role on teams, he doesn’t know what he will be doing next, he can only think about the immediate future.
As it turned out he didn’t need an extra year, he ran a 40 in just 4.46 seconds and he jumped a 33 1/2 inch vertical at the combine. He was a specimen to scouts, surprising, but vital, for someone who ran, threw, held and caught balls throughout his early days as a player.
Getting selected by the current world champions has its positives and negatives for any player in the draft, you get a locker room full of leaders and experience, but Superbowl winning teams rarely get back to the dance the year after. Going 15-1 wasn’t exactly a disappointing start to Randall’s pro career, but not winning in the playoffs was.
This past year his role as a receiver increased, and he stepped up on many occasions. Being used as a utility player on a team with major wide receiver depth is expected for Cobb and a positive. He definitely upgraded the Packers’ special teams, their running game at times, and was always a more than viable option for Aaron Rodgers when Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Greg Jennings were not open or playing. Setting the Packers’ record for total all-purpose yardage in a single season, didn’t come easy.
Things look different once again for #18. As Randall looked up at the scoreboard which read 45-31 to the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs, he knew his role was once again changing. “It’s been great to have so many great guys around me; Jordy, Greg, James, A Rod; it’s given me lots of opportunities”, he told Jim Rome on Radio Row at Superbowl XLVII, “it’s going to be really weird not having those guys (Driver and Jennings) around, but it happens, you gotta make that next step and move forward.”
For a player who has grown up and flourished changing roles on the fly, with no time to think, this next change could be the most important of his career. It’s his time now; Driver looks towards retirement, Jennings looks towards free agency and Cobb has to look toward the potential he has, filling a higher role on the Packers’ WR depth chart for next season. Stability is on the way for Randall and this time he can prepare for it. From the moment he put his draft cap on in New York, he was going to be “the future” for the Packers, and the future starts now.