Randall Cobb — The NFL’s newest Wildcat

A record 25 amateur football players were invited to Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the 2011 NFL draft last weekend, but by the end of the second round of the draft only one remained in the green room waiting for his named to be called — former UK All-American wide receiver Randall Cobb.

As the second round came to a close, the Green Bay Packers, a team that maintained no contact with Cobb since the scouting combine in March, finally selected the Cats’ electrifying offensive threat with the 64th overall pick, the final pick of the round.

At that moment, all of Cobb’s childhood dreams, all of his hard work, all of his grit and determination and all of his passion for the game came to fruition. He had finally made it to the pinnacle of the game he loves so much — the NFL — and furthermore, was selected by the most historic franchise in the league, the defending Super Bowl champion Packers.

“It’s probably the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me,” Cobb said. “To wait as long as I did and go to the team I did, you know God works in mysterious ways, and for me to have the opportunity to play for Green Bay, such a powerful organization and so well known and so much tradition there, it’s going to be a great experience.”

Cobb had to sit a long time before his NFL dreams became a reality. In fact, he had to wait two nights to be selected, being passed in all 32 picks of the first round. But Cobb returned to the draft the next night for the second and third rounds, again anxious to hear his name called from the podium.

“The first night seeing everybody leave it was a little bit (stressful) on my family. Not so much me, but more so my family,” Cobb said. “But the second day I went in there with the mindset of, ‘Hopefully I’ll get off the table today.’ When the receivers started going it was a little bit of ‘Where am I at?’ Like I said, God works in mysterious ways, and I fell into probably the best position out of any of the receivers.”

Now a member of the Packers, Cobb becomes a part of one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses. Cobb will be the newest target for Pro Bowl and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Cobb said that he had not gotten a chance to throw with Rodgers yet, but that the Packers’ signal caller would be in the Bluegrass for this weekend’s Kentucky Derby, and that Cobb would also try to join him in Green Bay shortly thereafter.

Cobb also becomes a part of one of the NFL’s most explosive receiving corps, led by veterans Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Driver has been with the Packers for more than a decade and is quickly climbing up the franchise’s record books in many receiving categories. Jennings has taken over as the team’s No. 1 target and a go-to option for Rodgers. Also in the receiving corp are deep threat James Jones and slot receiver and return specialist Jordy Nelson. Nelson fills a role that Cobb would likely complement — catching balls underneath in the slot and running with the football, as well as returning kicks and punts.

“They have a great receiving corps that I can learn from and a great quaraterback,” Cobb said. “They are a Super Bowl-winning team, so it’s just a great fit and a perfect fit for me.”

When asked how he felt about being drafted to the NFL’s defending champions as opposed to a team in a rebuilding process, like the Carolina Panthers who took Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick, Cobb said it would be a great opportunity for him to learn how to be an elite player in the NFL.

“That’s very important in that I think that’s going to help my success as a player, and I hope I can contribute and help them in any way I can,” Cobb said. “When you have a quarterback as advanced as Aaron Rodgers is, and have a Super Bowl team, they know what it takes to get there, they know what we have to do to get back to that position. Just coming to a situation like that and being able to learn early how do you get to a Super Bowl, how do you work, how do you push yourself, how do you pride yourself as a team and as an organization to get to that level, I think that’s very important and me falling into that situation I can learn really fast how to get there.”

In addition to a talented roster, the Packers franchise is one built on a great history and tradition. Cobb said he had already begun doing his homework on former Packer greats, like Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr, and was becoming acclimated to the traditions that come with being a member of the Packers.

“I haven’t practiced my ‘Lambeau leap’ yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to do that one day,” Cobb said. “I’ve had a few friends go ahead and order some cheeseheads, so you know they are getting ready to get up there into the frozen tundra.”

Cobb also has been embraced by the large fan base from the league’s smallest market. He said his Twitter account went from 16,000 followers to 22,000 or 23,000 followers within three days of his selection.

But amidst all of the excitement of becoming a Green Bay Packer, Cobb has not forgotten about the 63 players taken ahead of him and the 31 other NFL teams who passed on him. Will Cobb use this to help motivate him at the next level?

“Yes,” he said, bluntly. “I’ve already been doing that. The day I got drafted I went and worked out that night … I breed off that stuff, and I’m going to use it as motivation like I always have.”

For now, however, Cobb’s NFL career will have to be put on hold because of the current NFL lockout, caused by a dispute between the NFL Players Association and the owners and a fallout in collective bargaining negotiations. Cobb said that currently he could not visit the team’s facility or visit with the coaches, and he wasn’t even allowed to receive his own personal copy of the playbook. This will put Cobb and other recent draftees behind most typical rookies on the learning curve for young NFL players. For the time being, Cobb will have to train on his own away from the team’s facilities to prepare himself for if – and when the lockout comes to an end.

“I know as much as you all know (about the lockout), just what I see on TV and my agent tells me a little every now and then,” Cobb said. “But there’s not too much that I can do about it, so I just try and focus on what I can do, and that’s just prepare and be ready whenever the lockout is over and we start training.”

Whenever Cobb is allowed to join his new teammates in Green Bay, he will wear the same number, 18, that he wore at UK. He will also join former UK punter Tim Masthay with the Packers. Cobb said he hasn’t been able to reach Masthay since he was selected.

“I tried to call him yesterday, but I got the disconnected number,” Cobb said, jokingly. “I wanted to try and mess with him about trying to take his job as the holder.”

In the NFL, it is common practice for a team’s punter to hold the ball on field goal and extra point attempts. Cobb was UK’s holder for all three years of his career with the Cats.

Cobb will join a handful of former UK football players in the NFL. Former UK wide receiver Stevie Johnson is now the No. 1 target in the Buffalo Bills’ passing game, while fellow wide receiver Keenan Burton plays for the St. Louis Rams.

Jeremy Jarmon left UK in favor of the NFL’s supplemental draft, and currently plays defensive end for the Washington Redskins.

Fullback John Conner paves the way for one of the league’s top rushing attacks with the New York Jets. Former all-SEC cornerback Travard Lindley is a nickel corner for the Philadelphia Eagles, and former UK defensive tackle Corey Peters is currently clogging running lanes for the Atlanta Falcons.

Cobb said his selection, along with his fellow Cats in the NFL, have helped to put head coach Joker Phillips’ program on the map.

“I think it’s big because we have players, we have guys that can play on that level,” Cobb said. “We have to go out there and showcase our ability and help get Kentucky’s name out there and get Kentucky’s brand out there.”

But for now, Cobb’s days at UK are a thing of the past. The small-town boy from Alcoa, Tenn., who chose the Cats over the Tennessee Volunteers, will now try to make all of his NFL dreams come true. And what better way to do it than returning to life in Green Bay, a city of about 100,000, and playing for the legendary Packers?

“I think it’s a great fit,” Cobb said. “A small city like where I come from, and the tradition is remarkable. I think that just coming from a small town and going to a small town is, I think, where football is football … I would have sat until the sixth round if I had known I was going to Green Bay.”