Carving Out His Place In History
words // W. Keith Roerdink
photos // Heidi Hammer
photos // Darrell Martin
Randall Cobb walks in two worlds – simultaneously surrounded by history, and becoming a part it. He exits the locker room at 1265 Lombardi Avenue and walks by the greatest moments of Green Bay’s storied franchise, immortalized in poster-size fashion on the wall.
It’s a scene that’s not lost on him. Cobb grew up in Alcoa, TN, a town filled with rich football tradition. His high school team won seven of the last eight state championships – including four while he was there. It was a small town where football was king. But that intensity is ratcheted up 100 fold in the NFL’s smallest city.
“It’s a special place,” Cobb said of Green Bay, taking a break from his offseason training for a photo and video shoot with Eastbay. “You look at the field we play on, how much history is in that one stadium. So many guys have walked through that locker room, and through that tunnel. Reggie White, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, Donald Driver… there’s just so many guys that I could name. There’s a passion that we have being part of such a great organization.”
He has listened to tales from the Green and Gold all-time greats. Cobb’s selection in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft (he was the last player to leave the ‘green room’ when he was chosen 64th overall by Green Bay) was even announced at Radio City Music Hall by Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor.
“I’ve had a chance to talk to Bart Starr and hear some of his old stories,” Cobb said. “I’ve met Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung a couple of times. Just being able to be around so many great players that have come before you is a special feeling and it really makes you appreciate the game that much more when you hear stories from them.”
But entering his fourth season, Cobb has already etched his own name into the record books. After tying the NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return as a rookie, he set a team record with 2,342 yards as the team’s resident Swiss Army knife in 2012. It broke down to 954 receiving yards, 964 kick return yards, 292 punt return yards, and 132 rushing.
The versatility was nothing new for Cobb. He set the SEC record two years prior with 2,396 yards, playing everything from receiver to running back to Wildcat quarterback and returner.
“I was actually mad because I was going for 2,500,” Cobb said in all seriousness. “I didn’t get it that year. That was one of my goals going into the season. I didn’t quite get as much as I wanted, but I did break the record, so that was pretty huge. But I’m my biggest critic, so anytime I have success, I’m always pushing for more and it’s never going to be enough. You can never be satisfied. You always have to keep that drive and never relax.”
Still, the Green Bay record was humbling for a player just two years removed from dominating at the college level. Green Bay is far away from Kentucky in more than just geography.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Cobb said. “You think about such a historic franchise and for me to do something like that in my second year is unreal. And I’m really thankful for those accomplishments. But I want to be the best at what I do so I can’t really worry about my accomplishments right now because I still have a lot that I want to achieve. I have to keep that focus and drive and that motivation to move forward on the other things I want to achieve. Maybe after my career, I’ll look back and realize how huge that actually is.”
There’s already a lot to look back on after just three seasons. Along with his record-tying return and yardage record, Cobb was part of one of the most memorable plays in Green Bay’s storied 93-year history — the touchdown grab at Chicago that catapulted Green Bay into the playoffs. It’s a play that may one day take its place on the walls outside the locker room doors, among the other historic snapshots.
“That play… so many things had to go wrong for it to go right,” said Cobb, his eyes glowing even more intensely than usual. “First off, with them coming on an all-out blitz, John Kuhn checking the protection, half the line getting it, the other half not, him being able to make an incredible block on (Julius) Peppers, Aaron being able to get out of the pocket and find me downfield, me coming off the ball and seeing that a guy is standing right where I have to go, and instead of running the route that I’m supposed to, abandoning everything and throwing my hand up, and the rest is history.”
Heightening the drama even more, was that it was Cobb’s first game back after being out 10 weeks with a broken leg, and his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was back under center after missing seven games with a fractured collar bone.
While that win vaulted Green Bay into the playoffs, their season would end the following week in a loss to San Francisco. But that loss, along with the comeback trail Cobb’s traveled, has him chomping at the bit for a season-opening game against the reigning world champions in Seattle.
“Why not start off the year like that?” Cobb said. “I’m really looking forward to that game. You have one of the best corners in the game in Richard Sherman; the Seahawks’ defense is one of the best in the league, if not the best statistically over the last few years; they’re coming off a Super Bowl win; you’re going to the ‘12th man’ to play. I mean, why not? The stage is set. It’s just time for you to take control of what you can and go out there and do what you’ve got to do.”
Go deep with Randall on his cleats, training, and more here!