GREEN BAY — Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb’s body is now sound after an injury-riddled 2015 season that saw him spit up blood in the middle of a game and spend a night in the hospital. As for Cobb’s mind, that’s even better with recent developments in his life. At age 25, he recently graduated from the University of Kentucky.
As Cobb prepares for the 2016 season, he spoke with Bleacher Report about his recent personal accomplishments, his aversion to being mic'd up for games and, to a lesser extent, his expectations:
Bleacher Report: First of all, congratulations on receiving your college degree recently. What is your degree in?
Randall Cobb: Communications and leadership development.
B/R: You don’t want to be a reporter, do you?
RC: (laughing) Possibly. We’ll see, we’ll see.
B/R: I advise against that.
RC: I’m in no hurry to pursue it yet.
B/R: Yeah, this pro football thing seems to be a lot more fun.
RC: Yeah, we’ll see where this goes.
B/R: So why get your degree? A promise to yourself? A promise to your mom?
RC: It was a promise to myself. I’m fortunate to have some really great people around me, my fiancee being one, my parents being another. Over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve figured out the importance of continuing to learn and the development of the brain and how the brain hooks up with the body.
B/R: So do you do some of those brain-game challenges every day to wake up and activate your brain? Or is it purely about learning?
RC: I’m into some things like that, but it’s kind of different games. One of the games I like is this seven-letter word game. It’s an app and it pretty much breaks up words and scrambles the letters, so it’s like three letters in a box and you put together a seven-letter word, so you really have to think about it. It’s something to activate the brain. But the reason I really got my degree was it was an achievement. It’s something I started, and I’ve always been one to say that if I started something, I’m going to finish it. It was always a goal of mine, to be the first in my family to graduate.
B/R: Really? Well, congratulations on that as well. Did your parents get a chance to go to college or did that not even happen?
RC: They didn’t have the opportunity.
B/R: So I imagine there were some tears from them as they were sitting there watching you go through the ceremony.
RC: I guess so. They were in the stands at the time, but I’m sure my mom cried, and I know my dad was really excited and proud, and my fiancee, I know she cried. So it was a good time.
B/R: So what is it like for a professional athlete to be sitting amongst a bunch of kids who are graduating? It was a couple of thousand kids, right?
RC: Yeah, it was a couple thousand. It was kind of weird. You feel like you’re an outcast. You’re the old man. I promise you, all those kids, none of them have beards. They all just have a little stubble on their face. The girls all look like middle schoolers. I just felt really old. It really reminded me how far removed from college I am.
B/R: They all knew who you were, right?
RC: Yeah, I tried to hide out as much as I could, but it was a little hard.
B/R: Did they ask for autographs in the middle of the ceremony?
RC: No, not really. A few pictures here and there, but I figured that was coming.
B/R: Yeah, my son just graduated from college a couple of weeks ago, so I just sat at the other end of that. It was great.
RC: Yeah, it was really exciting. I had a lot of people there with me, so that made it great.
B/R: How many people?
RC: I probably had 25 people there. My immediate family and close friends.
B/R: So beyond the obvious assumption, what is leadership development?
RC: It’s kind of like mentoring. It’s kind of like public speaking. It’s kind of like strategic development for leadership. It was not something I expected to major in. When I went to college, I wanted to major in kinesiology. That’s what I wanted to do, but just the way our schedule matched up—our football schedule and the college of kinesiology—all the classes were in the morning and football practice was in the morning. So there was no way for me to take all the classes that I needed to. Once I got into those core classes, it would have been hard for me to do it.
B/R: So do you have a vision of what you want to do with that? I know you’re focused on football right now, but do you have some long-range thoughts?
RC: It’s not necessarily something I think about. It’s kind of like the chaotic theory of education. You have the traditional view of it, where you go to college, get a degree in something and that’s what you do. The chaotic theory of education is that you go to college, earn a degree and then that degree may be used in something completely different. It’s about achieving the goal first. It’s not that I got the degree because that’s something that I want to do. It was about getting the degree and then progressing on to something. I want to get my (Master of Business Administration) someday, so this was a first step toward that.
B/R: So it’s really more about having the discipline to get your degree and not the field of study. I have a friend like that. He majored in German studies in college and now he owns and operates a chain of pizza joints.
RC: Yes, it’s the discipline of finishing that so that I can get my MBA.
B/R: I get it. My friend often says, "How exactly did I get here?" But it was about the path of achieving something first and building upon that.
RC: Exactly. I think the value of critical thinking and the ability to use your brain in different ways is really important.
B/R: So it sort of sounds like you might even do law school or get a Ph.D.?
RC: I don’t know about going that far. I think the MBA is something attainable in the next five to seven years. But you never know where life is going to take you. So that’s something that could happen depending on what happens.
B/R: OK, now for a football question. In late May, Aaron Rodgers said on A.J. Hawk’s football podcast that he believes you suffered a punctured lung because of the microphone that was hooked up to your body. Do you think that was the case?
RC: That’s the theory I have had since it happened. It’s not the (microphone), it’s the battery pack that was attached to the mic that was on my back. If you go back and look, there’s a battery pack that was on the back of my shoulder pads that is right adjacent to where I punctured my lung. There’s no way to scientifically prove that, but I didn’t break or fracture a rib. So what other thing could have poked up through my ribs and punctured my lung?
B/R: So if they asked to mic you up again…
RC: Never again, not even a question. They already know not to even ask me about it. Mentally, it took me a while to get over it. I had a few instances where I freaked out.
B/R: What do you mean?
RC: I was told to refrain from traveling a little bit.
B/R: Because of the pressure change in the airplane.
RC: Yes, because of the air pressure. I was very fortunate that the puncture wasn’t big enough to collapse my lung. So learning more about some of those things, it mentally bothered me and that was a barrier I had to get over. But it was just something that mentally played a part with me.
B/R: Are you talking about things like diving to the ground?
RC: No, not at all. It wasn’t anything to do with football. It was more so...I had an episode once where I got up and felt lightheaded. It was just like three weeks after I punctured my lung. Immediately I thought, is there something wrong?
B/R: You’re thinking about whether you’re getting enough oxygen to your brain?
RC: Yeah, it just kind of messed with me. It was kind of a mental lapse. I knew I was healed, but I had a mental lapse and I was just suddenly freaking out thinking it was my lung.
B/R: So does that cause a little adrenaline to flow through your body?
RC: Yeah, definitely.
B/R: Was the hospital stay scary?
RC: No, it was more the stuff afterward. Really, the hospital stay kind of sucked because I felt like I was better. When I got to the hospital, I was still coughing up blood a little, but more just because it was like it was caught in the back of my throat. It wasn’t that I was still bleeding a lot because, overall, I felt fine. I was choking on blood a little, but not like I was (drowning) or anything. I was just clearing my throat. But I felt fine. It wasn’t like anything was hurting.
B/R: Have you gone through an injury like that before?
RC: No. Again, it was more like the traumatic episodes I had after the fact, after they told me what could have happened. That resonated with me more than the actual injury.
B/R: So what is the freakiest thing you have ever seen Aaron Rodgers do with a football?
RC: God, there are so many. I want to say I have seen it all, but there will come a time where he will amaze me again. From throwing no-look passes to rolling to his left in Arizona and being able to flip his hips and throw 60 yards across his body for that Hail Mary...I mean, you just don’t see that very often.
B/R: I think that’s one of those incredibly underappreciated skills. People see it, but they don’t understand that you’re really not supposed to be able to do that kind of stuff with a football. I mean, when a shortstop goes into the hole, grabs a grounder and fires to first to nail a runner, people can see the arm strength and accuracy. When Aaron does it, I think it’s so sublime that people don’t understand that humans aren’t supposed to be able to throw a football like that.
RC: Exactly. It’s unbelievable. The other thing is that the way he is able to dissect a defense from the aspect of being able to change a play call and adjust the protections all in a matter of the time clock. To be able to see it, read it and communicate it and get the play off in time is pretty remarkable. You can literally go down the page of things he can do. I know that I’m going to think about something else later on that I saw him do that was just unreal. Or something two or three weeks from now and I’ll want to tell you about it.
B/R: I remember that there was a touchdown pass he threw to you in 2012 in St. Louis where he was rolling left and threw across his body…
RC: And it was just a dime, right on the money.
B/R: It was ridiculous.
RC: It was right there. It’s really impressive. I could gush about him all day.
B/R: For yourself, do you have a set of goals that you are working toward either year by year or for your career?
RC: For sure. I try to set yearly goals. I try to set daily goals, five years, 10 years, career. You try to get those milestones.
B/R: Do you share them with anybody?
RC: No, I kind of keep them to myself.
RC: I always have. There’s no reason to set more expectations from other people for yourself. I have expectations high enough for myself. I don’t need other people to know what my expectations are of myself.
B/R: Do you write them down?
B/R: Who are the best cornerbacks in the league at disguising what they do on defense?
RC: I know he played safety late in his career, but (Charles) Woodson was by far one of the best.
B/R: Did you line up against him in practice when he was here?
RC: I did. I think that helped me tremendously being able to go up against him in practice and watch him here, watch him on the field with his set of leadership skills, see how focused he was on what he had to do. Another one is (Darrelle) Revis, a very, very patient guy with his style of play. He’s very long, very strong. It’s difficult to figure out what he’s trying to do.
B/R: So is that disguising what he’s trying to do?
RC: Guys who are in coverage, it’s a little bit hard to say that they’re disguising things because you really know what they’re going to play going into it in different situations. Really, in terms of disguising coverage, it’s the safeties more than the corners.
B/R: The reason I ask that is I was talking to Josh Norman about it, and he said that in a given situation, there are five different ways he can play against a certain route. He said the key was being able to disguise that, although he primarily meant disguising it from the quarterback.
RC: For us, it’s more of a reaction. They can show something at the line of scrimmage...he can be press bail, he can be off and press, he can play soft man; there are many different ways, and it’s kind of easy to see the ways as you go. It’s not something you see pre-snap. But you get a feel of it pre-snap with the safety rotation and see all these different things. And it’s more than just the corner who plays it. You can tell by the way a nickel lines up in the slot, by the way the safeties are rotated, the way the linebackers are cheating. There are a lot of things that play into it, and that can give it away. So one guy can’t disguise it by himself.
B/R: You have the ability to play multiple places, from lining up at running back to being in the slot to being outside. How long did it take for you to master that?
RC: I don’t think I have mastered that. I’m still trying to learn every day, whether that’s at practice or in a game. There are always things you can learn, always things you can get better at. I try to master the craft, and I don’t think there’s ever a time you can’t be getting better.
B/R: Which one is most fun? From a layman’s view, it would seem like lining up in the backfield would be the one.
RC: Yeah, that is a lot of fun. Being able to line up in the backfield and take handoffs and run. There’s a lot of stuff that I did in college out of the Wildcat at actual running back. Being able to motion out of the backfield and see who’s going to cover you. Is it going to be a linebacker? Is it going to be a safety? Do they have a special package where a corner is going to follow me? It’s fun to see that. I like being able to line up at punt returner and be able to make a play.
B/R: So when it’s a linebacker running to cover you, do you salivate?
RC: Oh yeah, for sure (laughs). For sure. I’m sure that would be like if I was in pass protection and (the linebacker) saw me trying to block them.
B/R: What is the most memorable play you have been part of so far?
RC: For me, personally? Probably Chicago in 2013, 4th-and-8 to get us into the playoffs. Me and Aaron were both coming off injury going into the game. I didn’t have many snaps that game—maybe 20 or 30 snaps—but I had two touchdowns and obviously the one for the go-ahead to put us up.
B/R: Was there some guesswork that went into that play because you and Aaron were both coming off of injury?
RC: Oh yeah. For one, we hadn’t been out there, and, two, it was kind of a broken-down play and it kind of just happened on the run. He gave us a play and then we went to the line and I saw something. John Kuhn was able to cut (then-Bears defensive end) Julius Peppers on the play, Aaron was able to escape the pocket, and I was able to void my route and make a play downfield.
B/R: So that sounds like you were able to guess how he would think in that situation despite not having had a lot of practice time leading up to that moment.
RC: Yeah, it was just something where we were on the same page at a moment when it was chaos and you wouldn’t think that we would be.
B/R: That reminds me of this play that former tight end Keith Jackson had one time with Dan Marino. They were playing in Indianapolis and Jackson was lined up against a linebacker. The linebacker played Jackson to the inside and left all this space to the outside. Jackson and Marino had never practiced an option to that route, but Jackson went to the outside, looked up and the ball was already there. They were completely on the same page.
RC: Yeah, that was it. It’s rare. It’s happened a few different times, but I think that was the biggest, most memorable one.
B/R: And you realize that if it doesn’t work…
RC: (laughs) Oh yeah, that was fourth down and we’re going home instead of to the playoffs. That would have been the end of our season.
B/R: How hard was it last year without wide receiver Jordy Nelson? I know you guys had other injuries and you were really banged up yourself. But not having him for the entire season had to impact how opponents played against you.
RC: It’s difficult. Jordy is an unbelievable player. But it takes more than one player to win, and I don’t think a lot of us did our job as well as we needed to. And by us, I mean me. I’m the one to blame. I’m pointing the finger at myself. I could have done more. I should have done more. I had a few issues going on, but that doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, people don’t care about that. People don’t care about injuries. The guy you’re lining up across from probably has injuries, too. I dropped way more balls this past year than I have in my career. So it was just one of those things.
B/R: Can you isolate a reason why you dropped so many passes?
RC: Most of my drops come from pulling my head away, turning my head too fast, trying to make something happen. But, at the end of the day, again, none of that matters. It’s did you catch the ball or not?
B/R: I'm asking more from a perspective of how do you fix it?
RC: You just have to focus in on the most important part.