“For people to think so much of me is really something,” Cobb said.
That’s because he is something whether he was playing receiver, quarterback, running back or kick returner. He just made plays — a school-record 37 touchdowns and SEC record for all-purpose yardage in 2010.
When Jonivan Henry was a freshman, one of his Alcoa (Tenn.) teammates was a senior named Randall Cobb.
“Randall was a very hard worker and I knew he was going to achieve great things. He is a very cool guy. Me and him were friends growing up. I knew when he went to Kentucky, he would achieve great things,” Henry, who played for the victorious Tennessee team in the National Guard Border Bowl in Williamsburg Saturday, said.
Cobb did more than make plays. He inspired Kentucky football fans of all ages. I have friends with No. 18 jerseys — the number Cobb wore — and kids across the state have them, too.
No matter the circumstance, Cobb never failed to sign an autograph or pose for pictures. He was nearly mobbed at times at Rupp Arena Saturday but patiently honored every request just like he always has.
“I have always enjoyed that. I cannot say it was always the funnest thing to do, but I do enjoy it and being able to interact with fans. Just being in position to do that kind of thing is important. I always sign as many as I can, and try to sign them all,” Cobb said. “I want to make everybody happy. As entertainers, that is part of our job.”
He’s not just saying that, either. He believes it. You could look for all the football lines possible in Las Vegas, but there would not be one with odds questioning Cobb’s heart or goodwill.
After the disappointing loss to Pittsburgh in the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Cobb had to be in a hurry to leave and get home with his family to contemplate his future. However, a small child yelled at him hoping to get his attention as Cobb left the stadium. Cobb’s mother heard him, told Cobb and Cobb turned back to find the child.
“I have to remember what is important. It’s not me. It’s all the people I play for and all the lives that I can inspire,” Cobb said. “I remember that little boy. When my mother told me, I never thought of not going back to him. You have to make sure you inspire anyone you can.”
He’s inspired plenty. Just ask Henry who says Cobb is every bit as popular in Alcoa as he is in Kentucky.
“Randall is a very lovable guy. When you see little kids come to see him, they always want to shake his hand. A lot of people look up to Randall. They see what he did and it makes them want to try and do the same things and have the same success,” Henry said.
“I have been to a few of his games. I went to a bowl game one year I went to and I have been to Kentucky to see him. He’s very, very good. There are a lot of people excited about him going to the NFL. I think he will do great. His work ethic is very good. He is a very hard worker and that’s how we do it at Alcoa. That’s what makes him so good.”
Henry says Cobb’s leadership at Kentucky — the trait UK coaches admit they may miss most with him — was no surprise, either.
“He has always been a leader. It takes a lot to be a leader, but he has always been a very big leader. I guess when I was a freshman, I looked up to him and one day wanted to be able to lead the team like he led the team. He was outstanding,” Henry said.
Henry said no one in Alcoa knew if Cobb would stay at UK or leave for the NFL.
“But I wasn’t surprised. I am happy with whatever Randall does. We all are. We love him,” Henry said. “I know a lot of us started liking Kentucky because he went there. He’s just special.”