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By LARRY VAUGHT
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done everything a player could possibly do for a team on the football field. Now itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time for Randall Cobb to finally be a little selfish and think more about his career than the University of Kentucky football program.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why the versatile, talented Cobb confirmed Thursday that he will forego his senior season at Kentucky to put his name into the NFL draft.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have been wrestling for a while with this decision,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Cobb, who had to stop several times to wipe away tears and compose himself during his announcement. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I got a chance to go homeÃ‚Â and talk to my family (after the bowl game). I talked to them and went over to the church for a couple of hours and just prayed. God led me in a direction to step away and make the jump (to the NFL). I just feel like I am doing what I was told.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He said he remembered laying in bed when he was 4 years old dreaming of playing in the NFL.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As hard as it was, I had to make the best decision for me and I felt it was my time to go and pursue my dream to play in the NFL,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cobb said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I feel I am physically and mentally ready for the next level.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He leaves Kentucky with a legacy that will shine for years. He was a dynamic playmaker on the field and record-setter, but he was also a terrific leader off the field. He was a fan favorite Ã¢â‚¬â€ and always took time to sign autographs, pose for pictures or mingle with fans.
He holds the Kentucky career touchdown record with 37 and is fourth in scoring with 226 points. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fifth in career pass receptions with 144 and sixth in receiving yardage. He also set a single-season record for most all-purpose yardage with 2,396 yards this season when he broke the Southeastern Conference record. He also led the SEC in receptions per game in 2010 when he had 84 catches for 1,017 yards.
His versatility was shown by the fact he was the only player in the nation to rank first or second on his team in rushing, passing and receiving.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Randall Cobb made us all better for coming in contact with him,Ã¢â‚¬Â UK coach Joker Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now we have to find somebody else to step up and be a leader. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what is the hardest to replace.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Receivers coach Tee Martin, a long-time friend of CobbÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, knew Cobb likely was going to leave.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I told him once he made his decision, go with it and he would be fine. I knew he was not the kind of kid to let anybody make the decision for him,Ã¢â‚¬Â Martin said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so, so special. I remember hearing how when he was a freshman, he stood up at Florida and ripped into the team for the way it was playing … as a true freshman.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t replace a Randall Cobb. You just hope to build another one. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to find the right kid with character, leadership and a love for football that he had Ã¢â‚¬â€ and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why you just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t replace him. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fake being a leader or hard worker. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect another guy to be Randall Cobb. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one in a million.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why it was no surprise that one of his five game-winning touchdowns is not his favorite. Instead, it was his first Kentucky touchdown in 2008 against Norfolk State.
Cobb recalled how after his sophomore year at Alcoa, Tenn., when he won the second of four state championships, he went to a summer camp and was told he would never be a Division I player. The next summer he came to UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s camp, was offered a scholarship and committed a few weeks later. He never wavered even when Tennessee made a late push to sign him.
He was so devoted to UK that he came to almost every UK home game in 2007. He Ã¢â‚¬Å“rushedÃ¢â‚¬Â the field after Andre WoodsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game-winning pass to Steve Johnson against Louisville. He did it again after Braxton KelleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tackle gave UK the overtime win over eventual national champion LSU.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to be part of the tradition and program. I knew it was a program on the rise and I wanted to help,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cobb said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I came to Kentucky not only for the football, but for the fans, too. I remember fans knowing who I was and I had not played a snap.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My three years here have been the time of my life. I have enjoyed every last second.
He was named to three all-American teams this season and his draft status will never be higher because he wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be any bigger or quicker at this time next year for NFL evaluations. He said his NFL evaluation indicated he would likely be a third-round pick in April, but also noted he knew that could fluctuate from round two to round four.
If teams measure his heart and will to win, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll go higher than projected. However, no matter what happens, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll always be remembered fondly at UK.
He thanked UK coaches and fans for their help. But he also personally congratulated the trainer, strength coach and equipment manager. He also had kind words for athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the UK administration.
That attitude is why this decision was hard. Cobb has always been a team-first guy, not a me-first. He knows leaving hurts the program no matter how much he insists the Cats will be fine without him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Every time I weigh it (about leaving) I was team putting the team first. I had to get to a point I was trying to block that stuff out and see what was my best option,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cobb said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now I am stepping out and have to become a man really. All things we do as college kids is a blast, but now I have to move on.Ã¢â‚¬Â
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already been the Ã¢â‚¬Å“manÃ¢â‚¬Â for UK football for three years. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also shown everyone that pursuing dreams may not be easy, but dreams are worth chasing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It goes to show you can never give up on a dream or never let anyone tell you that you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything. You can only stop yourself,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cobb said.
And during his three years at UK, Cobb wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stopped often and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why going to the NFL now is the decision he should have made because it was time finally to be selfish and do what is best for him.