DeAndra' Cobb ----- A great father and son story

Drew Edwards did a real nice job on this piece the other day :slight_smile:

Living The Dream

DeAndra' Cobb is here because God told his dad he should be

July 18, 2009
Drew Edwards
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 18, 2009)

DeAndra' Cobb's father believes his son's success is the work of God. That's easy to dismiss, of course, given that nonbelievers and believers alike often have a hard time believing that a higher power takes an active interest in football, let alone individual football players.

But then you hear the story. DeAndra' Cobb's life and football career has been spent slipping through a series of rapidly closing doors at the last moment -- and banging into a couple of closed ones, too. He's been lucky and good and gotten lots of help and guidance along the way -- divine or otherwise.

Earnest Harden came into Cobb's life when DeAndra' was nine, a merging of two single-parent families into one Brady Bunch-style unit with five kids. DeAndra' was the oldest and the least likely to accept the new arrangement. Living in Las Vegas and not a strong student, Cobb drifted toward trouble.

Harden played it cool.

"He told me 'I'm not trying to be your father, just your friend and we're in this together,'" Cobb says. "And I started watching how he lived his life, how hard he worked to put food on the table and to make sure we had things we wanted at Christmas. He just sort of won me over, showed me how to be a man. I realized I didn't want to be a knucklehead my whole life."

Harden became his father, maybe not in the biological sense, but in the only one that really matters. Now 50, the caretaker at a Las Vegas school became the caretaker of his new son.

And Harden went to football games. A lot of football games. Pop Warner, high school, junior college, Michigan State, NFL. Harden saw this small, quiet kid who didn't seem to get excited about much just take off once he hit the field.

"You should have seen him in Pop Warner when he started -- he was just so fast that nobody could touch him. His coaches called him Turbo because he could just take off. When I saw that, right then I knew that God had blessed him," Harden said.

While football came easy, other things did not. School was always a problem as Cobb's short attention span and teenage laziness kept him from excelling in the classroom. He didn't have the grades to go to a big school and so went to junior college in California instead. He still struggled with school, but with the help of tutors -- and the realization that it was his ticket to the big time -- he managed to qualify.

"He needed a couple of marks in that last semester to make it, and he worked hard to finally get the grades," Harden says. "We were so proud to see his work pay off."

Then the rise. Two seasons at Michigan State returning kickoffs for a school-record four touchdowns and a bevy of YouTube clips. Selected by the NFL's Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL draft, getting in three games that year, returning kicks. The Show and a career full of promise.

And then the fall. An injury in training camp the following year, a high ankle sprain that was slow to heal. Cut by the Falcons, cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Just like that, it's over.

And so Cobb begins to contemplate life after football. He has a wife and two kids to help support. He gets a job working as a security guard at a high school in California where he and his wife have settled. He's thinking about going back to school to finish his degree, about working with the troubled kids he sees in the hallways every day.

And then his father called.

"He told me he'd had a dream, that the Lord had told him that I was to give it one more shot. He came with a plan to hire me a trainer, to devote myself to football full-time," Cobb said.

"We had to convince my wife and my mother that this was a good idea. My wife said, 'You'll always wonder if you don't give it one more shot. Go ahead.'

"You can't do much in this life without your wife's say-so, so that really helped."

Harden paid for the trainer and helped out with household expenses, and Cobb put in the long hours. The speed returned and with it some new-found power.

Still, he'd been out of football more than a year by this time, off the radar screen of just about everybody. He got a few workouts but NFL teams were tepid in their interest -- "we'll get back to you" was a familiar refrain.

But Ticat general manager Bob O'Billovich remembered Cobb from Michigan State, thought of him as prototypical CFL talent, a smaller guy with explosive quickness who could use the CFL field to his advantage. They invited Cobb to a free-agent camp in California.

Head coach Marcel Bellefeuille was there. "He had a great workout -- he was so fast -- and Bob and I had that discussion: do we bring another running back to camp? We have so many. We just thought he was such a great talent that we couldn't not bring him to camp," Bellefeuille said.

Cobb started the season fourth on the depth chart behind Kenton Keith, Terry Caulley and Tre Smith. More long odds. He survived rookie camp and training camp and made the practice roster. By week two, all three backs ahead of him were injured, and Cobb was getting his chance -- on the road in Vancouver, where East Division teams go to die.

But you know the story from here.

One hundred yards rushing on 14 carries, 75 yards receiving, a highlight-reel game-winning touchdown, and a fancy new watch as TSN's player of the game. A chance to start tonight against the Bombers.

But more than that, vindication, a reward for the hard work, for a father's belief, for a lifetime of rolling the rock back up the mountain. An answer to prayers.

"For his entire career, there's been something at every turn. It's like the devil was trying to snatch it away from him, and he just hung on in there, hung on in there. We're just so proud of him," Harden says.

And now the father's role has changed again. After years of picking his son up and dusting him off, of telling him he could do it when it appeared that, really, he couldn't, Harden is now the tempering force. It's just one game and it's been a long, hard road.

"He keeps telling me not to get a big head, to stay humble and to say my prayers," Cobb said. "He keeps reminding that we have a lot to be thankful for."


I must say that I had tears in my eyes as I read that story. Very touching and it's nice to see Cobb have some success after all of his hard work. I have so much respect for Cobb's father. It's not always easy taking on a kid who is heading in the wrong direction. "Father", I can clearly tell how proud you are of DeAndra', but you should be equally proud of yourself.

Absolutely! :thup:

I love this quote from DeAndra' :

"I realized I didn't want to be a knucklehead my whole life."


I hope he stays with the Ticats a long time and can go speak to high school kids around these parts to tell his story. Sadly though, and truth be known, there are a lot of kids who don't have a great step-parent like DeAndra' does. Many step-parents can be very destructive and negative in a kids life. I have great admiration for DeAndra's "father".

In the words of Pat (whitey) Stapleton..."you are a product of your environment" and to follow the old adage "you are what you eat" he has a saying..."be careful what you put into your body but also what you put into your other words...garbage in >>> garbage out".

All his life prior to playing in the NHL, people said he was too small or too short...but he kept working and made it.
He looked pretty good on Team Canada 1972 as well! :thup:

Long before TIM Horton's Timbit's hockey he was preaching with "Fundamentals In Action" that we should be encouraging young people as opposed to hollering at them when they are young playing sports. His "creedo" was "the most important thing is to HAVE FUN" (Sound familiar) The skills will develop naturally with just a little "coaching".

A good example of what he is saying is the young Wayne Gretsky. (He should know...he was his first pro coach with the Indianapolis Racers, WHA) Pat was part owner of the Racers, and a playing coach.

"Father" and Whitey must have read from the same type of books! :wink:

I too LOVED reading this story! DeAndra' and Harden are obviously men of GREAT character. Definitely a story to share ... thanks for posting it and giving it profile!

My favourite quote was
You can't do much in this life without your wife's say-so, so that really helped Gotta agree with that one! :smiley:

Great story....the atheist in me makes me shudder when I read some of it, but its an inspiring story of second efforts, that's for sure.

Awesome to see Cobb being successful...lets hope he lights it up in Montreal tonight.

And those parts made the church-going gal in me smile all the more! ... I'm just sayin ...

Wow, wow, wow, wow... is what I can say. God ceases to amaze me. If this isn't His work, what is. To God be the glory. My husband is also apart of the Tiger-Cats and they share a similar testimony. Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans and others God is getting ready to something that cannot be stopped. The is power in prayer and He will get all the glory. Again I say way, and PRAISE GOD! And I knew it was not coincidental when they roomed together that game. Go God! You're soooooo AWESOME! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Onchocerca volvulus?