HOUSTON - When Texas native David Cobb wondered aloud if he’d made a mistake by picking the Gophers and a new coaching staff that seemed to critique his every move, his father offered calm assurances.
Caesar Cobb is a retired Army lieutenant and a former professor of military science at Alcorn State University. He and his wife, Nina, raised two older sons who became college football players, so they’d seen it all before.
“I knew what the coaches were doing,” Caesar said. “I told him his time would come.”
Cobb had rushed for 2,946 yards as a three-year starter at Ellison High School in Killeen, Texas. But he rushed for only 57 yards as a freshman with the Gophers and carried only once for 8 yards as a sophomore.
Last year, when the Gophers went to Houston for the Meineke Car Care Bowl against Texas Tech, Cobb’s family held a reunion. His older brother, Daniel, was on Texas Tech’s roster but didn’t dress for the game. Cobb’s duties were limited to kickoff coverage.
“It’s not embarrassing, but that’s kind of how it felt,” David Cobb said. “You go to a college, and [family members] expect you to play, and you don’t really touch the field. In the back of your mind, you just really want that one opportunity, but it just never comes.”
The opportunity finally arrived this season, and Cobb took full advantage, becoming the Gophers first running back to top the 1,000-yard mark since Amir Pinnix in 2006. Minnesota is back in Houston for Friday’s Texas Bowl, this time against Syracuse, and Cobb is expected to play a vital role.
Of the 125 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Syracuse is the only team yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. Cobb had six such games this season, and the Gophers can’t wait to see what he can do against the Orange.
“He’s worked very hard,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. “It’s a great lesson for our young players that sometimes you just don’t get everything in life right now. You have to earn it and work for it.”
A foot in the door
Cobb’s determination to make his mark as a college running back stems from a childhood growing up in Texas, Mississippi and even Germany.
He was born in Killeen, Texas — about 200 miles northwest of Houston — before the family moved to Gloster, Miss. Caesar Cobb had played running back briefly at Alcorn State before enlisting in the Army, and his three sons were all drawn to football.
The oldest, Caesar Jr., went on to play at Alcorn State. The middle son, Daniel, transferred from Texas Tech to Louisiana Tech this year, and the linebacker wound up leading the Bulldogs with 82 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
“One brother is four years older, and the other is two years older, and David always tried to keep up with them,” Caesar Cobb said. “That definitely gave him some toughness.”
When David was in elementary school, the family moved overseas while his father was stationed in Vilseck, Germany.
“The first year there, my three boys played soccer; they didn’t have any football over there,” Caesar Cobb said. “So the next year we formed a Pop Warner tackling football league.”
Eventually, the Cobbs returned to Killeen, near Fort Hood. This allowed Cobb and his brothers to play at the highest level of Texas high school football — 5A — at Ellison, and each of them thrived.
As a 5-11 running back, David Cobb wasn’t flooded with Division I scholarship offers, but Stanford was among the schools that showed interest. Kill’s staff had just been hired at Minnesota, so Cobb wound up committing eight days after national signing day.
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