One thing you can say about the Raiders new regime is their reach for finding players to add to the team has been wide. There are quite a few players they have signed whose colleges are who's who of... who? Colleges like Bemidji State (Brian Leonhardt), Assumption College (Scott Simonson), and Hillsdale College (Andre Holmes). They've even reached into the CFL (Kory Sheets) for players.
Now you can add Cumberlands College to that list.
The newest running back to join the team is former Cumberlands College star, Terrance Cobb, who was signed to a reserve/future contract following last season. And the Raiders' recent history of giving small school and undrafted players every opportunity to make their squad gives Cobb plenty of cause for hope he can be the next.
"Yeah, it gives you hope," Cobb told me in a recent phone interview. "You wanna see smaller school guys prove themselves because you're kinda trying to hold it true for everyone that's coming behind you. You don't want to go up there and prove what everybody's thinking right - that the small school guys can't hang with the bigger school guys.
"I know for myself if I see a guy on the team that's from a small school and he's being successful, it kind of gives you a better feeling, and if a team keeps a guy like that it helps you understand that they don't really put a knock on you that you're from a smaller school."
While his college is relatively unknown, his name is not. His older brother is former NFL running back, Reggie Cobb; a former round 2 pick who spent 7 years in the league (1990-96) with the Buccaneers, Packers, Jaguars and Jets.
So, how does an obviously talented running back like Terrance Cobb, with the NFL pedigree he has end up at Cumberlands College, having the scratch and claw for an NFL opportunity? I'll let him explain it.
"Just immaturity for me," Cobb said. "I was 17 when I graduated high school and my maturity level in high school wasn't there. . . my mindset didn't develop into schoolwork and I really needed to push hard in the classroom to get where I wanted and I didn't really realize that I wasn't going to be able to play at the school that I really wanted to because of grades."
"I had a lot of division one schools come and visit with me, talk with me, I took a lot of visits too, obviously Tennessee - I was right here in Knoxville - I took some other visits, I remember Louisville... there was a lot of schools. My shelf would be stacked up, every day big school letters, all that stuff. I just never took it serious I guess. Looking back at it now I always kick myself because that was a huge opportunity for me that I missed, but you know life takes different turns for whatever reason."
After missing out on the spotlight of the big colleges and the more typical path to the NFL, he attended Junior College and eventually landed at Cumberlands College and finally put it together.
In his first two seasons at Cumberlands, he finished with 979 and 904 yards. Good numbers but nothing that would turn any heads at the NFL level. Then he broke out his junior season to run for an astounding 1,991 yards. That's when the NFL began to take notice.
Following his fantastic junior campaign, the NFL began to take notice.
"Actually we never even had a scout step on campus the three years prior and at the end of my junior year we actually had two scouts come in the spring and we ran the 40 and that's when the scouts started to come," said Cobb. "They rode in by the boatload, I think I've seen almost every team at least twice. It was pretty crazy how it all unfolded because you go from seeing zero to like 30 different teams."
It seemed his NFL dream was in reach. He just needed to do continue that success as a senior. That's when he was presented with another road block. Just two games into his senior season, he suffered the dreaded Lis Franc foot injury.
"The experience was tough," said Cobb. "That was the first time I've ever been injured, period. I've always played every single game through high school, through little league. Never missed a game and to kind of push myself to the top I would've been able to go through a combine, everything like that to push myself through. Not being able to do that and just seeing a lot of guys got picked over me and me still trying to heal up and not getting ready for the season it was tough. . . it's also a humbling experience. I've learned a lot from it and I've learned how to become a more mental tough person through the experience."
The disappointment would be amplified by the fact that his team would make the NAIA Championship game without him. And he would be forced to stand on the sideline and watch. A stage like that would have been just what he needed to show the NFL he was worth a shot, perhaps worth a draft selection. For Cobb, it was a bittersweet moment of being happy for his teammates while unable to be a part of their success.
"It brought me to tears the night before the game and it was just... God, it's just so hard to explain that," Cobb continued. "It's something that you don't want anybody ever to have to experience as an athlete, to see a program that went from getting blown out in the first round to making it to the championship and you can finish off the deal with the team as a senior. It crushed me."
Even with the Lis Franc injury as a senior, he still put up 540 yards and his 4,414 career rushing yards and 47 touchdowns are both school records.
With just the tape from that fantastic junior season in which he averaged 7.7 yards per carry with 29 touchdowns, and a couple games as a senior to show NFL teams, he was able to secure some predraft visits. Several of those teams talked as if they might take a late round flier on him but that never materialized. Ultimately he was signed by the Jaguars and an undrafted free agent and after spending camp with the Jaguars, appearing in just one preseason game, he was waived.
In the months following his release from the Jags, the 24-year-old back received interest across the league and made visits to Washington and two in New York with the Bills and Giants. His final stop was Oakland, where he was ultimately signed to a reserve/future contract following the season.
So, how did he get on the Raiders radar? The connection is pretty simple - Tennessee. That's where he and his big brother Reggie are from. That's also where Reggie McKenzie is from. They all went to high school in Knoxville and the two Reggies both attended University of Tennessee for football.
McKenzie graduated from Tennessee in 1985 and Reggie Cobb joined the school the following year. These days both Reggies live in the Bay Area - Cobb is a scout with the 49ers. So, it's no real stretch that McKenzie would be familiar with Terrance. With the added bonus for Terrance that he gets to be close to his brother.
But teams don't add players just because they come from the same city. Cobb is an intriguing prospect. And as far as uncovering a gem, Cobb has a great deal of potential.
We haven't seen much from him outside of that tantalizing junior season. He has the pedigree. At a solid 5-11, 220 pounds, he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash. So, what does he bring to the table? I asked him. Though, getting him to talk himself up was not too easy.
"I don't like to put too much on myself but really in my opinion I bring the big play ability to the table," Cobb said after a bit of coercing. "I've always been that way, I've always felt like when there's a big play to be made I want to be the guy to do it. I run really hard and I'm always looking to get the extra yards. I really take pride in my yards per carry. It's something that I always hand my hat on; trying to get that extra yard. Really just the intensity. I'm a winner. I've always won everywhere I've been. I just have the winner's mentality. I've always wanted to be the guy you call on in the last few minutes if you need a fourth and one, I wanna be that guy. That's what I bring with me to the table. I'm a very tenacious player."
His addition to the Raiders makes sense. A team with a need at running back who doesn't put a stigma on small school players. A player who had a long road to earn his shot - another quality on which Reggie McKenzie has put a premium -- and has all the physical tools to deserve a legitimate opportunity at making an NFL roster.
Here is a highlight video put together of Cobb aka the "Cumberlands Corvette".