This week, I watched Randall Cobb turn a routine catch into a 75-yard touchdown. I knew that Randall was a tremendous football player in high school and knew that Tennessee was making a big mistake in not signing him.

I believe that they offered but were late to the recruiting. I felt certain that he could be a solid college player and have a chance to play on Sundays.

But I never considered that he would be an NFL superstar.

I’m not sure anybody can anticipate that.

I saw Danny Spradlin play in high school and then watched his career at UT and then later in the NFL. I would have given him a college football scholarship just looking at him. But he had that something extra that allowed him to excel at the college level and then take his game on to the Dallas Cowboys.

Aaron Douglas may still be the best high school player I ever saw. He could do stuff on a football field that teenagers just shouldn’t do. His dad (David) had a solid NFL career and his mom (Karla) was a Lady Vol national champion so you knew he was going to be good. Phil Fulmer went so far to extend a scholarship offer to Aaron in his crib.

He led his high school team to state championships in football and basketball his senior year and seemed destined for greatness and a huge NFL contract. Alas, his demons captured him and ended his life way too soon.

There are others on my short list of greatest. Shannon Mitchell. Billy Williams. TJ Myles. Albert Davis (Junior and Senior). Lester Whitted. Tim Bell. Dawn Marsh. Cait McMahan.

As a freshman, Mitchell was doing things on a basketball court that Coach Vernon Osborne had never seen before. And that wasn’t even his sport.

Tim Bell’s personal best in the high jump was 7 feet, 6 inches. Stand up. Reach up. He could take a running start and jump that high. With his whole body.

I’m still convinced that Lester Whitted could have been an all-star in any sport he played. Soccer? No problem. Rowing? He would have skimmed across the top of the water. I saw Todd Helton in high school. He hit anything in the strike zone.

So, what set them apart? What helped them become incredible at their sport? What makes greatness?

Genes are a must. I can only think of one athlete that I’ve known who seemed to exceed their gene pool. Pick your parents well.

Extraordinary physical skills, for sure. Part of them learned, part of them inherited. Most of the time those skills make an appearance early.

I remember seeing McMahan throwing a football in the end zone of a football stadium. I knew then she would be great at something.

The heart that I talked about a couple of weeks ago? Most certainly. In abundance. Confident without being arrogant. A certain amount of toughness.

Work ethic. Nobody achieves greatness without putting in the effort. Even the most gifted of athletes have to work hard.

But you know what? All of us can take what we have, add heart and work ethic, throw in coachability, effort, persistence, discipline, and a great attitude and WE CAN SOAR!

Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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