CC Cobb can't escape injuries but finds place to play at UT

Chad Greene/Special to the News Sentinel
CC Cobb of Tennessee poses for a photo at Regal Soccer Stadium on Thursday.

Photo by Chad Greene, 2012

Chad Greene/Special to the News Sentinel CC Cobb of Tennessee poses for a photo at Regal Soccer Stadium on Thursday.

When CC Cobb first arrived on the University of Tennessee's campus, she had tours planned, meetings arranged and visits scheduled.

But she wouldn't make it to most of those appointments.

She spent the majority of her visit sitting in a parked golf cart next to Lady Vols soccer coach Brian Pensky.

The last thing Cobb wanted was more appointments.

The UT midfielder spent the better half of two years laboring through appointments with doctors and surgeons.

Sitting with Pensky, there was only conversation.

"He wanted to know who I was, not my health," Cobb said. "I walked away feeling so perfect."

Walking away feeling "perfect" was an oddity for Cobb, who remembers a time where walking at all wasn't possible.

Playing her freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida State, Cobb was advised to stop playing soccer just four months before visiting UT.

Sitting with Pensky, there was no talk about Cobb's multiple surgeries and treatments to try and correct her severe plantar fasciitis, which is caused by tears in the ligament that connects the heal bone to the toes.

"He is the best guy I have ever met," she said. "He's papa Pensky."

While Cobb says she still battles through pain today, she is certainty walking and certainty playing.

The junior will play a key role as No. 25 Tennessee (14-4-3) plays its first round NCAA tournament match against No. 24 Miami of Ohio at Regal Soccer Stadium today at 2 p.m.

The RedHawks (19-2-1) have a 15-match unbeaten streak and are tied for most wins in the country with 19.

The winner will play Duke in the second round.

For Cobb, it would be an unexpected journey.

"I cried for four days straight when I was told I couldn't play," Cobb said. "I knew I wasn't done, but I didn't know what to do next."

She began by printing a copy of the NCAA tournament bracket.

Running her index finger down the page, Cobb stopped at Tennessee. She heard a former Atlantic Coast Conference coach had just been hired there.

"I thought that was perfect," she said. "An ACC guy is on the same page as me. So I e-mailed him."

Cobb received a response 10 minutes later.

"It was so fast. I was shocked," Cobb said. "He said he was headed to practice but would call me right after."

Exchanging frequent e-mails and phone calls with the coach for months, Cobb whittled her choice down to Tennessee or Colorado before a morning she and Pensky would never forget.

"It was May 25," Pensky said. "I still remember the day."

When Cobb woke up that morning, she could only remember one thing — orange.

"I had a dream. All I remember was seeing orange," Cobb said. "I just

said, 'OK, Tennessee it is.' "

Cobb told the news to Pensky a few hours later.

"I remember screaming in the airport," Pensky said. "She is such a fighter."

While Cobb's Plantar Fasciitis has improved, she has been far from injury-free at UT.

Just one glance at Cobb clad in her playing gear and it becomes obvious.

Or as her teammates joke, "She is a walking fashion statement."

"My grandmother, who can't see a thing, always knows who I am," Cobb said.

Whether protecting from a concussion she suffered this year, a broken nose, torn ligaments in her ankles or a dislocated elbow, Cobb's in game stride is trademarked by a brace-endued stiffness.

With an elbow brace strapped to her right arm, another brace on her left ankle, a near paralyzing mound of tape weaved around her right ankle and a metal plate on her nose, Cobb says she never views her injuries as setbacks.

"They're just tests," she said. "They make me who I am today."

Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.

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