Edward “Mookie” Cosby couldn’t get the image out of his head – the one where his little brother is gazing back at him as he’s leaving the jail after another family visit.
“Every time when he walked away or had to leave he looked really sad and kept looking back at me. It impacted my life,” said Cosby about the times his little brother, Cowboys defensive back
Cosby decided he would use his experience to help keep Webb on the straight and narrow. Needless to say, he succeeded.
After his time in jail, Cosby, who is 12 years older than Webb, went back to school and is currently working as a building engineer in Newport News, Va., where the brothers grew up. Following a stellar career on and off the field at William & Mary, Webb is now a part of the Cowboys defense, a young cornerback trying to find his place in the NFL. Webb was the team’s fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
“My brother, Mookie, was a big influence on my life and still is. He was in and out of jail, and I got t o talk to him a lot,” said Webb when asked who some of his mentors were. “I’d go visit him when he was in jail. He kind of told me to be different and not make the same mistakes he made. I really took that to heart.”
William Wilson Webb Sr., B.W.’s father, raised both of the boys and, along with their mother Avis, always tried to guide them down the right path. William realized that one brother’s experience could be very impactful on the choices the other made.
“Mookie was the type of individual who just got involved with the wrong kids in his teenage years. Eventually, he started getting into trouble. When he was in jail, I took B.W. down to visit the jails he was in,” remembered William. “At the jail, they had a program where the inmates would talk to the kids and tell the kids about how they got into trouble and what the kids should do to stay out of trouble. B.W. got a lot out of it, especially with his brother being in there. B.W. didn’t like that scene.
“After Mookie got out, that’s when he started talking to him about what not to get into and what type of people not to hang around. Thank God, he listened.”
While his brother’s influence was important, it was his father and mother who provided the stability and guidance that helped keep young B.W. on the right track and away from the trouble spots in their hometown.
“Of course, I’m sure it’s just like with any areas a lot of guys on the team come from. There are bad places. One thing my parents did when I was growing up was they kept me interested in sports and that kept me focused on something so I would stay out of the streets where all my friends were,” said Webb. “Some of those friends are in jail, some friends are dead. Then seeing my brother, my parents just used sports to get me away from all that. I definitely feel blessed to have my parents. They were very supportive.”
Aside from the temptations, the area Webb refers to as the “757” (for the telephone area code), is also the home for many current and former professional athletes, including the Vick brothers, Marcus and Michael, former quarterback Aaron Brooks, Seattle Seahawks running back Percy Harvin, former NBA star Allen Iverson and Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, just to name a few.
“All the guys that come from that area really take pride in the 757,” said Webb.
William Wilson Webb, Jr., who decided to shorten his name to B.W., displayed natural athletic ability at an early age. From the time he was 6 or 7 years old, his parents noticed that, no matter the sport in which he was participating, Webb stood out. Along with his natural athletic ability, young B.W. also showed that he had a certain desire. He wanted to do well, and he really wanted to win.
“B.W. never wanted anyone to beat him in anything; he was very competitive,” said Avis. “Grade-wise, he wanted to get A’s. Anything he did, track, baseball, football, just about anything he tried out, he had to be the best. He was very competitive. He had a drive in him to always get better.”
William and Avis made it clear to B.W. that he had to take care of things in the classroom if he wanted to continue playing sports. Using the same competitive drive he displayed on the athletic field, Webb excelled in the classroom.
After taking all honors classes and getting top grades, there were just as many colleges after him for his academic achievements as there were for his athletic ones, including Ivy League schools such as Harvard, top-notch local schools like Virginia Tech and Old Dominion, and the school he would eventually select, William & Mary.
“When he was in sixth or seventh grade, he told us that we wouldn’t have to pay for college because he was going to get a scholarship,” said Avis.
The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., was founded in 1693. A public research school, the institution is the second-oldest college in the country. According to the its website, William & Mary is a “Public Ivy” because they “offer a superior education that’s accessible to everyone.”
An impressive list of alumni is topped by Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, in addition to designer Perry Ellis, actress Glenn Close, television host/actor Jon Stewart, Columbia space shuttle astronaut Cpt. David Brown and Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
However, the only athletes on the “Incredible Alumni” list are Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and former U.S. Olympic track team member Brian Hyde.
“[William & Mary] is really heavy on academics. It’s just a tough school,” said Webb, who graduated with a degree in Kinesiology and Health Sciences. “They didn’t care if you played football or anything; you had to get your work done. There was a lot of work and you had a lot on your plate, but you had to finish everything. You really learn all about time management.”
Academics were important but Webb’s goal was always the NFL. On the field, he got off to a fast start. In his first collegiate game in 2009, the Tribe upset Virginia, and Webb had three interceptions, including one he returned 50 yards for a touchdown. That season he earned Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with eight picks, which was the second most in the nation and third best in school history.
Opposing teams soon figured out that they needed to avoid throwing in Webb’s direction. Over the next three years, he grabbed only three more interceptions, but gained a reputation as William & Mary’s shutdown cornerback. His 11 career thefts are still enough to place him eighth in school history.
Also excelling on special teams and as a punt returner, Webb ended up starting a school-record 48 games in his career. As a senior, he earned all-conference honors as a defensive back in addition to being named the CAA Co-Special Teams Player of the Year.
After a good showing at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, Webb had a feeling his dream of playing in the league was about to come true. Still, he didn’t know for sure where it would get started.
“I came [to Dallas] on my visit and found out they were interested in me, but on draft day I really had no clue where I was going,” he said. “When it happened, I was elated because a lifelong dream had come true. I thought I’d go a little higher in the draft, but it all worked out for the best. I wasn’t really sure of the opportunities because I wasn’t really aware of all the coaching changes. When I got here, I just looked at it as they brought me here for a reason, so I’m just going to put it all out on the field.”
Going into training camp, Webb was a pretty good bet to make the final roster but it was up to him to perform well enough to be a regular contributor on a team that was transitioning from a 3-4 defense to a four-man front.
One of the key roles in the 4-3 defensive alignment is the nickel corner, the one responsible for covering the slot receiver. Although it’s traditionally played by a backup cornerback, the nickel position has become a critical one with most teams going to three- and four-wide receiver offensive sets on passing downs. It’s no different in Dallas.
For Webb, learning the nickel was not an easy transition.
“The hardest part was learning a new position. I was strictly a corner in college then I came here and had to play nickel,” he said. “I never played nickel before. You have to know a little more and there’s a lot more field to cover, more technique and a lot of different plays.”
Webb saw action in 15 games on both the defense and special teams during the 2013 season, and Cosby watched almost every down. Despite his little brother now contributing in the NFL, Mookie continues to mentor him.
“We talk about once a week, after games. I observe his play, and we kind of kick it back and forth – how he’s feeling, what he saw, how he reacted. We go over the negative and the positive,” said Cosby. “I’ve always been doing that for him all through high school, college and now. I’ll tell him to focus on backpedaling, open up his hips faster, make sure he’s seeing the receiver, a lot of small things.”
His big brother is just one of the mentors Webb has at his disposal in his quest to succeed in the NFL.
“The future is looking bright, I just have to keep playing and learning from the veterans who are here. I think I’m doing myself justice by hanging out with some of the older guys on and off the field,” said Webb. “It’s helping prepare me for life. Hanging out with [teammates] is helping out a lot.”
But while his family is ecstatic that Webb is now playing professional football, it’s not the accomplishment they hold most dear.
“I’m very proud of him, but I think his first success was getting a scholarship and going to college,” said his older brother. “I was more proud of him getting his degree than I was about him going to the NFL. I’d have to say seeing him become a college graduate was pretty special.”Especially for Cosby, who remembering a young boy’s sad face, went on to help his little brother become the man he is today, and in turn, became a better man himself.