Patrick Cobbs: From Denton and Back Again
It is a sunny late-October afternoon and possibly the last truly warm day of the year. Patrick Cobbs is working with the Billy Ryan High School running backs, hands on their shoulders and speaking into their ears.
He maneuvers the back into the right position by guiding the player with his hands.
“The goal is to bring another state championship back to this school,” Cobbs said.
Ryan High School is currently 11-0 and making a playoff run. They would need to win just 5 more games. One of the team’s strengths, rushing the football, falls back into Cobbs’ hands as Ryan’s running backs coach.
Football is nothing new to him, and now he is teaching a new generation what he has learned throughout his career, which saw an extended stay in Denton during his college career.
In 2001, Cobbs arrived in North Texas while the UNT football program was on a 52-year bowl drought. A lot had changed within the program during those few years, and a lot of it had to do with him. In 2005, Cobbs departed University of North Texas with a legacy, having set many school and conference records during his time in Denton before seeking out a career in the NFL.
Now, Cobbs is at Billy Ryan, nearly five miles east of UNT in Denton. As he walked through the school’s field-house, he was talking on the phone and wearing a T-shirt that could hardly contain his large arms. The coaches’ office walls are lined with trophies that displayed the schools winning culture, having won two of their four straight appearances in the state championships from 2000-2003.
Although Billy Ryan has not appeared in a championship since, Cobbs and the Raiders are making a strong case to bring the championship back to Denton.
Cobbs’ journey from Denton to the NFL and back again is a storied one, but it does not come without struggles. After playing well in high school at Tecumseh High School in Oklahoma, Cobbs was awarded a spot on all-state and first-team all-area. This did not translate to college opportunities however, as he did not get the college interest he anticipated. Cobbs only got two scholarship offers, one from Oklahoma State and one from University of North Texas, before committing to play for UNT.
“There weren’t people beating down on my door,” Cobbs said. “I kept hearing that I was too small, and too slow.”
In the days before college, he was playing on both sides of the ball: offensive and defensive. He was a jack-of-all-trades, playing tight end, nose guard, linebacker and running back positions in his youth.
“I loved playing football both ways,” Cobbs said. “Growing up there was never a question of one or the other and I never came off the field, besides during kick-off.”
It was not until his time in Denton that he transitioned to playing exclusively at one position. UNT was intending to play him as a running back, a decision that came with success.
“Running back stuck from then on,” Cobbs said.
He played in every game as a freshman, helping the team to their first New Orleans Bowl game after an up-and-down season. Cobbs’ favorite football moment occurred that season, and shows how integral he was to the turnaround success of the Mean Green Eagles that year.
“We were win-less, playing an undefeated Middle Tennessee State, and I took a screen pass 60 yards,” Cobbs said. “It was a big turning point for the team.”
UNT went on to win this game and the next four straight, propelling them to their first bowl game in over half a decade.
Eric Capper, the UNT director of athletics, recalls a game against Idaho that Cobbs had to clinch the bowl.
“It was one of his best games at North Texas, and he played a major part throughout the game, even helping to run out the clock,” Capper said.
The team went on to lose that year’s bowl game, but the culture had changed for the better and Cobbs had plenty left to offer after the defeat.
“Losing is the toughest part of the game, especially when it happens at the end of the season,” Cobbs said. “It weighs on you until you get another chance to play.”
The next year, Coach Darrell Dickey had begun to utilize Cobbs more often. Cobbs took that opportunity and ran with it; displaying his talents and helping UNT win their first Bowl Game in program history. In 2003, He impressively led the nation in both rushing yards (152.7 YPG) and scoring (11.5 PPG). He also set program records for single-season rushing yards, consecutive 100-yard games, single-game rushing yards, single-game rushing touchdowns and longest rush.
Cobbs had another impressive 2005 season after returning from an injury he sustained in 2004, leading UNT to their fourth consecutive New Orleans Bowl. When Cobbs’ college career was over, he left with Sun Belt Conference career records for rushing yards (4,050), rushing touchdowns (36), and all-purpose yards (5,255). These records remained until Lance Dunbar’s great performances at UNT from 2008-2011.
“Patrick is very proud, very humble,” Eric Capper said. “He was always wondering who would break his records.”
During his pursuit for a spot in the NFL, scouts met Cobbs with the same “too small, too slow” descriptions that he heard going into college. After working hard, he ended up playing 6 seasons, spending time in the Patriots, Steelers, Dolphins, and Saints organizations. He earned a spot in Miami and played most of his NFL career there. His Dolphins teammates named him team captain after 4 years with the team. In 2011, he ended his NFL career after injuries caught up with him.
After a year spent with his newborn and wife, Cobbs was once again pursuing football. As a coach, he spent 3 years at Good Shepard before coming back to Denton for Billy Ryan High School, where he currently remains. Cobbs hopes to help lead Billy Ryan to another championship, a place the team has not been to since 2004.
“I knew I’d always be in and around football in some aspect.”