David Cobb has been playing college football for three seasons. In that time he’s gained experience playing in a Bowl Championship Series conference and learned a lot about the game of football.
But one thing still hasn’t gotten old. The sights, sounds and feelings that come with traveling around the Midwest and playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in football weather before thousands of fans still take his breath away.
“For a second, you almost have to catch yourself because you forget about the game and start looking around,” Cobb said. “It’s one of those times that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life.”
After sitting back, biding his time and working, the former Ellison standout has the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big 10) bowl eligible and poised to make some noise in the conference later this season.
Cobb is leading the team with 803 yards on 148 carries and has scored six rushing touchdowns to go along with 11 receptions for 118 yards.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Cobb is fourth in the conference in rushing yards and has the Gophers in third place in the Big 10 Legends division.
Minnesota has a good schedule set up to gain some national exposure and improve its bowl status. After hosting Penn State on Saturday, the Gophers look to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Wisconsin on Nov. 23 and close out the season with a trip to No. 18 Michigan State.
Clicked with coaches
For Cobb, his career as a Gopher mirrored the wait-and-see approach he took as a recruit coming out of Ellison.
After a career in which he rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in three varsity seasons as an Eagle, the time came to choose a college.
Cobb did not sign and fax his letter of intent to Minnesota until two weeks after national signing day. He chose Minnesota over Stanford, Memphis, Texas State, North Texas, Army and Navy.
He visited the Minneapolis campus and clicked with the Gophers coaching staff.
“The vibe that I got on my visit was different,” Cobb said. “(With) the other schools, I felt like they were just telling me what I wanted to hear. Coach really just looked me in the eye and told me that if I put my work in, I could be a good player for him. Two years later, it’s paying off.”
Once he got to Minnesota, his play was limited. He had only 11 rushes for 65 yards combined as a freshman and sophomore.
Cobb said there is no feeling quite like playing in the Big 10, a realization that first came to him as a freshman in 2011 when the Gophers opened conference play in front of 111,106 people against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.
“I had never seen a stadium so big and so full,” Cobb said.
He rushed eight times for 54 yards that day.
Minnesota running backs coach Brian Anderson said Cobb’s athleticism and fluidity made an impression on him when he first saw Cobb work out. Anderson compares Cobb to current Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.
“You saw the ability as a freshman,” Anderson said. “It just came down to maturing as a football player and putting it all together.”
“I’m excited to have him for another year and see his game continue to (improve).”
Cobb began the 2013 campaign with 69 yards against UNLV and scored his first career touchdown Sept. 7 at New Mexico State.
Cobb had a coming out party Oct. 26 with a banner day for both himself and the program.
He set a new career best with 31 carries and 138 yards to help Minnesota to a 34-23 upset win over then No. 25 Nebraska 34-23. The Gophers snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers that dated back to 1960.
After the game, jubilant Minnesota fans went from celebrating in the stands to storming the field to congratulate the players.
“That’s football right there,” Cobb said. “To see the fans crashing (the field), it’s like high school homecoming all over (again).”
Cobb continued his record pace a week later when he rushed for 188 yards in a 42-39 win at Indiana.
Anderson said he looks forward to having Cobb for the rest of this season and the next.
But for Cobb, a loftier goal remains.
Minnesota has put a pair of successful backs in the NFL with Marion Barber (Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears) and Laurence Maroney (New England Patriots and Denver Broncos).
Minnesota celebrates those backs with pictures around the football facilities and the duo make their way back to campus to visit with players during summer workouts.
“It just goes that much farther and pushes you that much more,” Cobb said about having Barber and Maroney around. “Maybe one day I can live out my dream and play professional football.”