Hometown hero proves worthy of the name
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
I remember the first time I saw Randall Cobb get asked for his autograph. I doubt it was the first time it had happened to him, just the first time I saw it happen.
Cobb’s senior season had taken its only hiccup with a loss to Maryville on Goddard Field, and before I could ask a few questions of the then Kentucky commitment after the game, he stopped to sign a shirt or two for a small pack of youngsters — two of which are Tornadoes themselves now. It struck me then because first he was being asked for an autograph after a tough loss, and second because as a teenager he did it with a maturity and willingness far beyond that of a teenager.
It’s been almost six years since then and the kid from Alcoa has done nothing but turn heads with his ability outwork everyone and defy the odds since. Remember this was a guy told by Clemson coaches as a rising junior that he’d be a good athlete but didn’t have the size to play Division I.
He turned that into the motivation that made him a Tennessee Mr. Football two years later. And the guy Tennessee missed out on for three seasons after that playing almost every offensive position for Kentucky before being drafted by the Packers.
Along the way he’s signed more autographs than he probably wants to count. Saturday he was signing some more for another much larger crowd of youngsters at the conclusion of his football camp at Everett Field.
There’ve been few doubts — and those that there were didn’t take long to be dismissed — of his ability since Cobb played his last down in the Maroon & Aluminum. That 108-yard kick return for Green Bay put him in the NFL record book and was immediately followed by Cobb saying he was too deep to have returned it and he’d learned from it. An NFL record and it was a mistake?
That’s been Cobb.
Autographs, Cheeseheads, more than 156,000 twitter followers, ESPN in town to follow him around for a tour of his home town; and all it’s done is underscore just what a role model he’s really become.
To call him a once in a generation athlete for Blount County to produce may be stretching it a bit given the wealth of talent. But if you measure success in a summation of on and off the field, Cobb really is special, even for the NFL.
When he was home during the Packers bye week in November, it wasn’t just to announce that he was making a three-year commitment to sponsor Alcoa Elementary School’s Blessing in a Backpack program. He and his family members later packed the backpacks with food.
He didn’t just put money into Saturday’s camp and then make a drop by visit, he was there working and sweating with the kids.
Cobb’s backed his monetary gifts with actions and actions that weren’t for show but simply sincere follow through in support of helping.
It’s become depressingly rare for the skill or work ethic a professional athlete has on the field to transfer off of it. Whatever haze of fame that seems to elicit the definition of party foul and token gestures from for too many elite athletes, it doesn’t seem to affect Cobb. He sets his goals high and is his self admitted own worst critic, though I doubt even he recognizes how much truer that is off the field than on it. There haven’t been half measures. When he takes on something like saturday, he puts himself into it.
Randall just being Randall has made Cobb a larger and more gifted role model off the field than he is on it.
And that’s saying something.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com