Former Alcoa, Kentucky star Randall Cobb embracing competition

Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb fails to make a catch during the game against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. UT won the game 24-14.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb fails to make a catch during the game against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. UT won the game 24-14.

He was the only college football player in the nation who ranked first or second on his team in receiving, rushing and passing.

He put points on the board in eight different scenarios.

If you were running an NFL team, wouldn't you be interested in this guy?

The guy is Alcoa's Randall Cobb.

And, yes, lots of teams are interested in him.

On Friday - maybe even Thursday - Cobb finds out which team is the most interested.

From all indications, Cobb's decision to leave Kentucky after his junior year and enter the 2011 NFL draft was a sound one.

He has been invited to New York to experience the draft at Radio City Music Hall. He'll be joined by his Alcoa family: dad Randall Sr., mom Tina and two siblings.

"I'm just happy to have this opportunity,'' Cobb said in an interview this week. "Not many people have this opportunity.

"It's always been a dream. I can't say it was always something that I felt was real.''

It was a dream nurtured on the playing fields of Alcoa, where Cobb played on Tornado teams that won 55 of 60 games and four state championships.

It was a dream that bypassed nearby Neyland Stadium and detoured up I-75 to the University of Kentucky.

"I'm where I am for all the things Kentucky allowed me to do,'' Cobb said. "I loved every second up in Lexington.

"Everything happens for a reason. There's no telling where I'd be or what I'd be doing if I went somewhere else.''

Kentucky allowed Cobb to play quarterback, his initial dream, then move to receiver and become arguably the most versatile player in the draft.

In just three seasons, Cobb broke a school record with 37 career touchdowns. Five times he scored game-winning, come-from-behind touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Get a load of his 2010 season:

He recorded an SEC single-season record of 2,396 all-purpose yards. He also led the SEC with 84 catches. He scored touchdowns by rushing, passing and receiving; returned a punt for a touchdown; and scored by running, receiving and passing on two-point conversions.

And, even by passing for a touchdown on a fake field-goal. Yes, NFL, on top of everything else, Cobb can hold for kicks.

"NFL teams only have 45-man rosters,'' Cobb said. "Most guys have to play special teams.''

Where can't he play?

"He was a tremendous defensive back,'' said Alcoa football coach Gary Rankin. "I'm not sure he couldn't go to the league as a defensive back.''

Rankin coached Cobb's final years at Alcoa. Nothing Cobb has achieved since has surprised him.

"I've had a lot of great players,'' Rankin said, "not only at Alcoa but at Riverdale in Murfreesboro, and a lot of them have played in the SEC.

"Randall is in the top two as having that total package.''

The other is defensive back Fernando Bryant, who starred at Alabama then started 109 of his 112 career games in the NFL.

"They're very similar in the type people they are, more so than just as athletes,'' Rankin said.

"Randall's just a little different (than other blue-chip players), and that's hard to put a pencil on. You've got to be a little different to play in the pros.''

Cobb's size isn't remarkable. He measured 5-foot-10 1/4 and 191 pounds at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. His speed isn't world-class, though he was proud of running a 4.46 40-yard dash at the Combine.

"Some people had questioned my speed,'' he said. "I showed them they were wrong.''

No one ever has questioned his instinct or his competitive nature.

"If you put a ping-pong paddle in his hand, you're going to have to walk across the table and hit him in the mouth because he's going to compete with you.''

That's what Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders recently told a newspaper in Philadelphia.

Here's another Sanders opinion:

"I've been around guys who were more talented, but I've never been around anybody that was as good a natural football player as him.''

Sanders, as Tennessee fans are aware, has been around quite an array of football players over the years.

Cobb forever is grateful to Sanders for the confidence showed in him at Kentucky. Likewise, another former UT quarterback on the coaching staff in Lexington, Tee Martin.

"Coach Martin really transformed me into an actual receiver,'' Cobb said. "I was a raw talent the first couple of years. He helped me understand what a real receiver does.''

Cobb is rated by several draftniks as the No. 5 receiver in a class that has A.J. Green and Julio Jones clearly at the top.

Most forecasts project Cobb to go in the second round. Todd McShay of ESPN went so far as to put Cobb late in the first round.

Cobb has done nothing but help himself over the past few months.

He left UK in January for the prestigious Athletes' Performance facility in Phoenix. He spent roughly six weeks training with 30 or so of the top prospects in the draft.

Technique, speed, nutrition, relationships. Cobb said it was a great experience.

The Combine in Indianapolis wasn't as gruelling as he expected.

"It's all about competition,'' he said. "The teams want to see how well you compete, putting yourself up against other people.''

Since the Combine, he's spent most of his time in Lexington. UK's Pro Day attracted 26 NFL teams.

Cobb said he also was invited for workouts at Pittsburgh, Atlanta, the New York Jets and Baltimore.

His agent, Jimmy Sexton, just this week brokered him a deal with Adidas to help market a new line of cleats.

As the finish line to the process approaches, Cobb has no idea when it will end - the first round of the draft is Thursday, the second and third on Friday - or which team will call his name.

"It's pretty much wide open,'' he said. "If you talk to other guys, you find out you have teams that show interest and then you have teams that don't want anybody to know they're interested.''

And it still doesn't quite seem real yet.

"You dream big and then you pursue it,'' he said. "That's how you go about it.''

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 13

JimmyJoe writes:

I don't care. Can we write about Tennessee guys? Don't care about Cobb. I just don't.

JimmyJoe writes:

How many times did he beat Tennessee by the way? Let me see.... Add em all up here.....carry the one.... Uhh.... None. Even though the Vols were horrible during his three years with UK....

Southland writes:

he was a good player. He was fun to watch. I hate that he went to Kentucky. If they had not had him they would have not had any winning seasons. Great player that was not recruited by UT as he should have been. Hope he has a bright future

VolNExile writes:

Happy to hear about local kids done good. I hope he does well in the draft, and I hope that there's actually a season for him next year.

GtotheGrizzle writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

I don't care. Can we write about Tennessee guys? Don't care about Cobb. I just don't.

He's actually a real Tennessee guy...Bleeds Tennessee, just not orange. Show some respect for a Local talent/ Home town guy who actually might make a difference in the NFL. Not too many High School players from the state of Tennessee can say that.

GOJO writes:

"He was the only college football player in the nation who ranked first or second on his team in receiving, rushing and passing."
That just shows how pitiful the rest of his team was.

tensie2004 writes:

Great young man, great talent, its a damn shame that he wasn't good enough for Coach Phil Fulmer and Tennessee. Doesn't Fulmer live in Maryville which is close to Alcoa. We missed the boat on this one without a doubt!! Maybe in a couple of years Dooley can pull us back up to where we belong in the top 10 by keeping the local guys that have the talent at home.

TKO writes:

in response to GtotheGrizzle:

He's actually a real Tennessee guy...Bleeds Tennessee, just not orange. Show some respect for a Local talent/ Home town guy who actually might make a difference in the NFL. Not too many High School players from the state of Tennessee can say that.

Agree. I wish the young man the very best. Not his fault TN got to him late.

SEAL_9821 writes:

in response to Southland:

he was a good player. He was fun to watch. I hate that he went to Kentucky. If they had not had him they would have not had any winning seasons. Great player that was not recruited by UT as he should have been. Hope he has a bright future

He was recruited by Tennessee (David Cutcliffe). I don't know why people keep saying we never offered this kid. Tennessee was Cobbs ultimate dream to play for. However, As his senior went by, we didn't show much interest until the close of his senior season. When we offered him, Kentucky had already showed him to much love and attention to the point that he became interested. Cobb was not recruited by many big schools at all. I'm not sure any other SEC school offered him besides us and kentucky. When Cutcliffe did offer him, he was already angry at us for not showing him attention and he chose Kentucky. That is how his process played out.

JimmyJoe writes:

in response to WildcatsOne:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wildcat One you are a genius... How did you figure me out so quickly? If had went to Tennessee i would love him... He didn't so I don't. Hearing about him over and over again is like having friends braggin about how great a person my ex wife is...and then not understanding why I don't want to talk about her. But really wildcat your sharp...to figure out my shallow persona so quickly.

VolNationPride writes:

in response to WildcatsOne:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree WildcatsOne, he did represent Kentucky well. A local guy who really blossomed at Kentucky, had a good career and stayed out of trouble. That is all you can really ask for from an individual standpoint. I wish him well and hope he has a great NFL career if he gets his chance.

peyton4prez writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

Wildcat One you are a genius... How did you figure me out so quickly? If had went to Tennessee i would love him... He didn't so I don't. Hearing about him over and over again is like having friends braggin about how great a person my ex wife is...and then not understanding why I don't want to talk about her. But really wildcat your sharp...to figure out my shallow persona so quickly.

Your ex and Randell Cobb don't belong in the same sentence. That is th dumbest analogy i've ever heard. I am pretty sure you have a choice whether or not to read the articles about Cobb. The only reason you do is so you will have something complain about, which brings us back to the ex-wife. No suprise there.

jcp201 writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

I don't care. Can we write about Tennessee guys? Don't care about Cobb. I just don't.

He IS a Tennessee guy. Alcoa! Hope he goes to a great team that I like rooting for this time.

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