Carving Out His Place In History

Carving Out His Place In History

Randall Cobb

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!

Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb

Athlete Spotlight: Nick Collins

Athlete Spotlight: Nick Collins

words // Jordan Hagedorn

For most kids growing up, they dream of a chance to play pro sports.  Much is the same for Green Bay Packers’ safety Nick Collins, but he apparently dreamed much bigger.  Growing up watching pro football, he told his family, “One day I’m going to be out there playing in the Super Bowl and I’m gonna contribute and do something very special.” Turns out he may have seen the future back then, as what he said came true back in February.

After losing a tough game to the Patriots 31-27 on December 19th, the Packers needed to win their final two games against the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. On the day after Christmas, Collins had a 4th-quarter interception against the Giants in a convincing 45-17 victory.  In the regular-season finale — a must-win game against the NFC North rival Bears, Collins picked off Jay Cutler late in the game to seal a 10-3 playoff-clinching win.

Entering the playoffs as the NFC’s sixth seed, the Packers would go on a run that only the players and die-hard Packer fans could have imagined. They began their improbable run against Michael Vick and the third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles, winning by five points in the wild card round.  In the divisional round, they put a 27-point beat down on the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons.  They then defeated the NFC North Division Champion Bears by a touchdown, to advance to the Super Bowl, where they would play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After the Packers jumped out to 7-0 lead, the Steelers got the ball with 3:34 left in the opening quarter. Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger dropped back, was hit and threw a pass short. Collins stepped in front of WR Mike Wallace and picked it off. He proceeded to return it 37 yards for a touchdown causing Packer fans to go crazy. After scoring, he ran to the middle of the field, dropped to his knees and outstretched his arms making for one of the most memorable images from Super Bowl XLV.

The Packers went ahead 21-3, but the Steelers battled back, cutting the lead to 21-17 in the third quarter.  The Pack held on late in the fourth quarter to defeat the Steelers 31-25 thus returning the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown.  Having never trailed the entire Super Bowl and never being behind by more than seven points all year, it turned out to be a remarkable season. And at the forefront of the win was one of the defensive leaders, #36, Nick Collins.

It was a dream come true for him.  A few days after receiving his Super Bowl ring, Collins told me: “It’s unreal. I received the box and I was like, “Wow, we are the World Champions.” And that’s something I’m going to have for the rest of my life and no one can take that away. It’s been a great ride, a great accomplishment and hopefully we can have many more to come.”

In this day and age where pro athletes all have different career paths, Nick’s journey from childhood to World Champion has been a great one. In high school, he played quarterback, running back and defensive back along with being a hoops point guard and hardball centerfielder. When he first got to college, they had him playing linebacker. All of that proves that “Nick the Pick” is an extremely versatile, adaptable athlete.

Late in his first year at Bethune-Cookman, Collins finally switched over to free safety and everything started to click. He went on to have a brilliant college career and was drafted by the Packers in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

Since then, he has fit in nicely with the Packers, contributing every year and always improving. In 2008 he returned three picks for scores, becoming the first safety to do so since 1986.  Collins has only missed three games in his career due to injury, making him one of the most durable and dependable players on the Packers’ roster. Last year he was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl.  This made him the first Packers’ safety to accomplish that feat since Packer legend LeRoy Butler did so from 1996-1998.

When I talked to him at his football camp earlier this summer, it became clear why he’s had so much success. He is a humble, down to earth guy that loves to laugh. He has a good head on his shoulders and just gets the job done. He is extremely generous with his time and is a great role model to kids. He is a sneaker collector but said he usually only wears shoes a couple times then he gives them away to less fortunate kids. When asked what advice he has for kids he said, “First of all make sure to do the right thing in the classroom. Show a lot of respect to others and just be determined. Know what your purpose is. Have a plan and goal then it’s up to you to go achieve that. If you just stick to those things, the sky is the limit for you. You always have to stay positive. If you’re able to wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror with a smile on your face, that means you’re going to have a successful day.”

To continue to inspire the youth he has started the Nick Collins Jumpstart Foundation.

You can follow him on Twitter here:

Also, keep an eye out for #36 on the field this year as he looks to help the Pack repeat!

NFL: Super Bowl Match-Up Set – Steelers vs. Packers

NFL: Super Bowl Match-Up Set – Steelers vs. Packers

Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers

words_Brandon Richard

After 20 weeks of NFL football, the stage for Super Bowl XLV has been set. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, will meet at Cowboys Stadium in two weeks for the right to hold up the Vince Lombardi Trophy. What did each team do to get to this point? Here’s a recap of yesterday’s Conference Championship action.

Green Bay Packers – 21, Chicago Bears – 14

Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay PackersBilled as a renewal of one of the oldest rivalries in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers made the trip to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears. The match-up pitted two of the league’s best young quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, against each other with the prospect of making that first trip to the Super Bowl hanging in the balance. Unfortunately, the game didn’t end with both of those men competing against each other, which may have been the deciding factor in who took home the George Halas Trophy.

The opening minutes of the game were dominated by the Packers. Led by Rodgers, Green Bay used a seven-play, 84-yard drive to score on the game’s opening possession. Rodgers was a perfect 4-4 passing on the drive and sealed it with a one-yard touchdown run on a naked bootleg to the left. On the ensuing Chicago possession, Cutler and the Bears struggled to manufacture much offense, resulting in a punt from Brad Maynard. This would be a running theme for the remainder of the half.

Coming out of the locker room at halftime, the Bears faced a 14-0 deficit and were aware of the fact that something needed to change. However, they couldn’t have expected the type of change that occurred. After suffering a knee injury in the first half, Cutler attempted to lead a drive to open the third quarter, but once again failed to produce. This led to him sitting out the rest of the game, leaving the Bears’ Super Bowl hopes in the hands of backup quarterback Todd Collins.

Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay PackersThough it seemed impossible, Collins played worse than Cutler did in the first half. The 16-year veteran completed none of his four pass attempts, which led to him being benched in favor of third-stringer and three-year pro Caleb Hanie. While Cutler and Collins struggled, the Bears’ defense did a great job of keeping the team within a two-score striking distance. Chicago’s hopes to make a trip to Dallas rested on the shoulders of the relatively inexperienced quarterback.

Hanie wasn’t perfect, but he seemed a lot more ready to play than the two quarterbacks in front of him on the depth chart. In Chicago’s first possession with Hanie at the helm, the Bears found the endzone for the first time that day. The score made it a 14-7 game, with plenty of time left to play. The Bears’ defense would follow with two more stands, giving Hanie opportunities to put more points on the board.

With a little over six minutes to play, Hanie did just that. Unfortunately the points went on the board for the Packers after nose tackle B.J. Raji intercepted a pass inside the 15-yard line for a touchdown. Hanie would make another rally attempt, throwing a touchdown pass to Earl Bennett to once again pull Chicago within a score, but would ultimately fall short by throwing another pick in the final minute of the game. Rodgers and the Packers would kneel out the remaining time to punch their first ticket to the Super Bowl since 1998.

New York Jets – 19, Pittsburgh Steelers – 24

Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay PackersIt was another ‘Tale of Two Halves” in the Steel City where the red-hot Jets challenged the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Championship. After disposing of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the Jets sought out to make it a trifecta by sending home Steelers hurler Ben Roethlisberger. On the line for “Big Ben” was a chance to become the fifth quarterback in NFL history to win three or more Super Bowl rings.

Pittsburgh started the game firing on all cylinders, putting the Jets in a deep hole that they’d spend the rest of the game trying to climb out of. On the game’s first possession, the Steelers used a 15-play, nine-minute drive to score the game’s first touchdown on a one-yard Rashard Mendenhall rush.

The Steelers’ dominance continued in the second quarter, where Pittsburgh added a Shaun Suisham field goal and Roethlisberger touchdown run to extend their lead to 17-0. On the following possession, Mark Sanchez fumbled after being sacked by Ike Taylor. Cornerback William Gay recovered the loose ball and took it to the house to give Pittsburgh a 24-0 lead. The Jets were able to muster up a late-half field goal to put three points on the board, but the game appeared to be firmly in the grasp of the Steelers.

During halftime, Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan told his team that the game was still winnable if they could execute in the second half. The pep talk inspired the team, and they emerged from the locker room playing like an entirely different team. Like Pittsburgh did to start the game, the Jets found the endzone on their first possession of the third quarter when Sanchez found wide receiver Santonio Holmes for a 45-yard touchdown pass. Nick Folk’s extra point put New York within two scores.

Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay PackersNew York’s defense would continue to stop Pittsburgh from adding to their lead. The next two Steeler possessions resulted in an interception and punt respectively. However, the Jets weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunities created by their defense. The corresponding Jet possessions ended in a punt and goal-line stand on the one-yard line for the Steelers. Pittsburgh looked well on their way to another AFC Championship.

However, the New York prayers were answered by the football gods when Roethlisberger fumbled the snap on the ensuing possession. Jets defensive end Mike DeVito tackled the quarterback in the endzone to net a safety for the Jets and possession of the ball. New York followed the safety with another touchdown drive, Jerricho Cotchery finding himself on the receiving end of a four-yard pass from Mark Sanchez. The touchdown put the Jets down just five points with a little under three minutes to play.

In most situations, NFL coaches would run the ball four straight times to milk the clock, then punt to the other team and force them to score another touchdown. Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin took a more aggressive approach, putting the game in the hands of Roethlisberger. With third and six on the New York 40, Roethlisberger threw a 14-yard pass to rookie Antonio Brown to seal the game. The Jets’ valiant comeback effort was stopped short, and the Steelers are on the way to their third Super Bowl in six years.

images via Yahoo

NFL: Super Bowl Match-Up Set – Steelers vs. Packers

NFL Week 5 Top 3 Match-Ups

words_Jordan Hagedorn

Last week’s Top 3 Match-Ups turned out to be fun games to watch. The Ravens beat the Steelers on a Joe Flacco touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 32 seconds left in the game, the Redskins held off the Eagles after a late surge and the Patriots put on a special teams show, spanking the Dolphins.

This week’s Top 3 Match-Ups feature a future hall of famer against his former team, one of the best quarterbacks in the league putting a team on his shoulders and a huge showdown in the AFC.

Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets

Legendary QB Brett Favre takes on his former team, the New York Jets this week on Monday Night. Favre played just one season for the Jets in 2008 before retiring. He came out of retirement to play for the Vikings last year and returned to play this season as well.

Favre has a new weapon in Randy Moss who was traded to Minnesota on Wednesday. Moss wasn’t happy in New England, so he was shipped to the team he started his NFL career with. Jets CB Darelle Revis called out Moss again this week after saying he wasn’t playing hard in the second half of the Patriots/Jets game in week 2. Revis had originally called Moss a “slouch” last year. Favre, the old gunslinger takes on the young gun Mark Sanchez in what should be a great match-up as both teams are Super Bowl contenders.

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins

Another intriguing game pits the Packers at the Redskins. The Packers are coming off narrow victory over the Lions and the Redskins notched a big win over the Eagles last week. The Pack will need to lean on QB Aaron Rodgers, as their running game has been a little shaky. Donovan McNabb and the Redskins are 2-2 and at the top of the NFC East but are looking for a huge win this week.

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts

The Chiefs and Colts square off in another excellent match-up this week. Kansas City is the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFL, while Peyton Manning and the Colts are looking to bounce back from their late 3-point loss to the Jags last week. This should be the Chiefs’ biggest test for far this year and will give them an idea of where they stack up against one of the best teams in the AFC.

NFL Week 3 Top 3 Match-Ups

words_Jordan Hagedorn

Last week my Top 3 Match-Ups turned out to be exciting games. After falling behind 27-10, the Texans rallied to force overtime against the Redskins. The Redskins missed a field goal in the extra period and Neil Rackers eventually kicked the game-winner to bring the Texans to 2-0.

In a highly anticipated match-up between divisional foes, the Patriots took a 14-10 lead into halftime of Sunday’s game. The Jets came out strong in the second half, outscoring the Pats 18-0 on their way to a 28-14 victory.

In the Manning Brothers showdown, Peyton led the Colts to a 24-0 halftime lead over younger brother Eli en route to a 38-14 throttling of the Giants.

This week has some interesting games, with a set of divisional match-ups being the most intriguing. Read below for my Top 3 Match-Ups of Week 3.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
This week the Falcons travel to New Orleans to face the reigning Super Bowl champs. The Saints are coming off a 25-22 overtime win Monday night over the 49ers, while the Falcons thumped the Cardinals 41-7 on Sunday. This NFC South match-up features the two best quarterbacks in the division in Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, with both looking to capture the division crown.

It looks like Reggie Bush may be out six weeks with a leg injury, but the Saints will lean on other offensive threats like Pierre Thomas, Jeremy Shockey and Marques Colston among others. In the Falcons, beat-down of the Cardinals, running back Jason Snelling ran 24 times for 129 yards and 2 TDs and also caught 5 passes for 57 yards and a score. Stud WR Roddy White had 7 grabs for 78 yards and a score as well. The Birds will face a tough test this week but this should be a great game.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
The Jets, led by Rex Ryan, travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins. The Fish lead the division with a 2-0 record, while the Jets are coming off of a huge win over Tom Brady and the Patriots. Both teams are exciting franchises on the rise. I look for this to be a great battle, with the winner determining who will have control of the AFC East.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
The Packers will visit Soldier Field for Monday Night Football to face the Bears. Both teams are 2-0 and in first place in the NFC North, which makes this game even more meaningful to these long-time rivals. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers has led his team to wins over the Eagles and Bills, while Bears signal-caller Jay Cutler beat the Lions in Week 1 and the Cowboys last week. This should be a great showdown on Monday Night Football to determine who will be atop the North Division after Week 3.