This is not what Randall Cobb expected. He's not totally surprised, but still. Not what he expected.
"I'm a loyal person. I've always been a loyal person. That's just one of my traits," Cobb said recently while sitting in front of his locker at The Star following practice. "Whenever you become part of my circle or part of my life, it's hard for me to move on. Sometimes you have to. In this game we play, it's a business. It's one of the more lucrative businesses in the world, a billion-dollar industry. So whenever you understand the business side of it, you understand the things that go on besides the on-the-field stuff."
But it's possible for people to understand in their head what makes their heart uncomfortable. So this is not what Randall Cobb expected. Not after being drafted in the second round by another of the NFL's most-storied franchises, the Green Bay Packers, in 2011. The Super Bowl XLV champs won their most recent title in, of all places, AT&T Stadium against Pittsburgh. Not three months later, they made the versatile Cobb the 64th pick in the draft. Cobb thought he'd be a Packer, catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, for all of his professional life.
The Packers clearly thought Cobb, who battled injuries in 2018, didn't have enough tread left on his tires to justify the salary an eight-year veteran receiver commands. Did that hurt him?
"I'm not going to say it did or didn't, because I'm a person, when things happen in my life, I believe they happen for a reason," said the faith-driven Cobb. "I feel like I'm here for a reason. I'm in Dallas for a reason. What the purpose is exactly, I'm not sure. I think it's bigger than football, but I am here for a reason. Whenever I was recruited in high school, there were schools that didn't offer me that I wanted to go to. I only had three offers coming from high school. I could always wonder what if, what if I'd gone to that school? Would things be different? But I knew I went to Kentucky for a reason, and things turned out the way they did."
Things turned out great for Cobb at Kentucky, they turned out very well for him on balance in Green Bay, and the Cowboys are totally delighted at their fortune. They may have been in the market for a receiver who could excel in the slot when Cole Beasley decided to winter in Buffalo. What they got was a physical athlete capable of playing numerous roles, and another high character leader in a locker room whose leadership and chemistry are two of its greatest strengths.
Receivers coach Sanjay Lal, notably detail-oriented and insistent on the finer points of the position, raves about his newest veteran addition.
"He's a consummate professional in all aspects," said Lal, just warming up, and from Lal, this is the praise you want. "He's a note taker, he applies coaching, he doesn't make the same mistake twice. Practices hard, studies hard and retains information. Although he's a veteran, he is still willing to be coached on technique and feels he can get better. I expected a lot of this, but I'm pleasantly surprised that he has exceeded my expectations in all aspects. And on a personal level, I enjoy his upbeat personality. It's nice to coach him every day."
Why did the organization think Cobb was a fit?
"He'd bloodied our nose a few times, including in the playoffs," smiled executive vice president Stephen Jones. "The bonus is he's like having another quarterback on the field. You know, he was a quarterback."
This is something Dak Prescott mentioned often in the spring, how much it helped him having that veteran brain on the field with him. And in just the first few games, Cobb's physicality (he was also a running back in high school, and after being recruited he found out Tennessee had in mind playing him as a defensive back) has made a difference.
So now he's a Cowboy. After being a Packer for a long time, especially in NFL years. What's that like? Has Cobb been in Dallas long enough to know that yet?
"I think I'm starting to feel it," he said thoughtfully, the nearly ever-present smile playing over his open features. "I think, as you said, these are two storied programs. Each has had a lot of success in its own way. When I first came here … when they say things are bigger in Texas, that's not a lie. The facility is unbelievable. The stadium, unbelievable. You have plush seats everywhere you go. Clubs on every level. So much stuff going on at both facilities. There's a presence whenever you walk in when it comes to being a part of the Dallas Cowboys and being at The Star."
Cobb had other offers. Why were the Cowboys the best fit for him?
"It felt like the best situation. I said from the beginning, I'm playing for a championship," he said. "I want to be a part of something special. Look in this locker room. Look at the names. On paper, we have everything it takes. Now, it comes to being efficient, executing the offense, making plays defensively, and putting ourselves in situations to win games. And doing that consistently throughout the games to put us in a position to be in the playoffs and go on a run."
By the way, Cobb is one of those names. He played in 11 playoff games in eight years. Was on all-rookie teams as a kick returner. Set Packers' records for combined yards. When did he realize he belonged, that he could be one of those names?
"I would say probably going into my fourth year," Cobb said. "I felt I had a really good second year in the NFL. The third year I broke my leg and I was out for 10 weeks. When I came back, I felt different. I felt like I was an elite guy, and my production went along with that. I've had some injuries here and there, but it comes down to, when you are on the field, can you make plays? Can I be the playmaker I think I can be?"
The beauty of Randall Cobb, though, is his ability to fit into a leadership role off the field as well as be a playmaker on it. He has special characteristics, AND he's walked into a locker room whose character and leadership are among its strengths. Cobb saw this right away, and those are parts of being a veteran pro he doesn't take lightly.
"I think they're very important," he nodded. "We have a lot of young guys on this team. They're looking at the guys who have been in the league five-plus years. The way I carry myself, I want to make sure I'm being a model for those guys, whether it's what I do in the weight room, my attention to detail in meetings, my approach to the game, my practice habits. I think all of those things are ways for guys to see what you do and how you go about your business so they can extend their careers."
Hall of Fame defensive back Charles Woodson was that guy for Cobb in Green Bay. It was, he said, seeing how Woodson watched film, how he practiced. What Cobb learned was that people are watching. People watch what you do. People see. And that informs the way Cobb is as a Cowboy.
"For sure," he said. "I want to give what was given to me. I think that what was shown me was out of love, out of wanting the best for me. Those guys were doing those things. I want to do that as well."
People see, all right. Cowboys Nation sees you, Randall Cobb.