Cousins prepare for NFL Draft

Minnesota running back David Cobb runs in for a touchdown in the second half against Western Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota running back David Cobb runs in for a touchdown in the second half against Western Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Grant Donald

For months, former Gophers running back David Cobb was patiently looking forward to Feb. 21.
 
Now, it’s a date that he may want to forget.
 
It was supposed to be his day to impress hundreds of NFL scouts and team personnel at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. His former Minnesota teammates Maxx Williams and Damien Wilson — Cobb’s cousin — were also there to impress future employers who will be making their final decisions this weekend, when all three former Gophers will likely see their names called at the draft.
 
But after a mere 4.81 seconds, the curtain closed on Cobb’s audition. While running a 40-yard dash, the Gophers’ single-season rushing leader suffered a quad injury, which required him to be helped off of Lucas Oil Stadium’s field.
 
“That’s right up there as one of the most disappointing and frustrating days of my life,” Cobb said.
 
But as Cobb’s world was seemingly being turned upside-down, all it took was a phone call from his cousin to remind him that everything was going to be all right.
 
“I just reminded him that one day will not define your career,” said Wilson, a former Minnesota linebacker. “If [being injured at the combine] happened to me, I know Dave would be right in my ear, helping me out.”
 
A day after Cobb was helped off the combine field, Wilson showcased his skills for potential future employers.
 
As they sit now, most mock drafts have Cobb being selected in the fourth round, while Wilson is projected to go around the sixth round.
 
Draft predictions are something the cousins have dealt with ever since losing to Missouri in the Citrus Bowl back in January.
 
“I believe I was a [projected] second-rounder at one point and probably as low as a fifth rounder,” Cobb said. “You learn quickly that you can’t be looking at the mock drafts. Not going to lie, it’s been hard, since ESPN is my favorite channel.”
 
Although the projections for Cobb and Wilson seem to be fluid, one thing has remained the same during the months leading up to this weekend: each other’s company.
 
The two spent as much time training together as they could.
 
“They are very lucky to have each other,” said Wilson’s mother, Pat Wilson. “As parents, we don’t know what it’s like to have to go through the stress of the draft, so it
can be hard to come to us for advice. They both know that the other is just a phone call away.”
 
Late bloomers
 
Even though Cobb will leave Minneapolis as one of the best running backs to ever wear a Gophers’ uniform, collegiate play wasn’t always easy.
 
After only receiving 11 carries during his first two years on campus, the Killeen, Texas, native finally got his first start during his junior season.
 
“I keep telling everyone that I am one of the freshest backs in the draft, since I barely saw the field for two years,” Cobb said. “Even after the [quad] injury, I still believe that.”
 
Damien Wilson, on the other hand, started at middle linebacker for the Gophers from the moment he arrived on campus, even if it did take him longer to arrive.
 
Out of high school, Damien Wilson started his collegiate football career at Alcorn State in Mississippi, his home state. After his freshman season, he transferred to Jones County Junior College where he was fourth in the nation with 122 tackles.
 
After that breakout sophomore season, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill called Jones County head coach Ray Perkins.
 
“I remember telling [Kill] that Damien would be a force at Minnesota and that he had NFL potential,” Perkins said. “Sure, I wanted Damien for another year, but I couldn’t hold back a young man from living out his dream.”
 
It didn’t take much to convince Damien Wilson that Minnesota was the school for him.
 
“Once I made up my mind, and I knew I was going to be a Gopher, [Cobb] was the first person I called. Even before coach Kill,” Damien Wilson said.
 
Healed up and ready to go
 
For a while, Cobb’s pesky quad injury from the combine added unnecessary stress.
 
The running back had to sit out of Minnesota’s pro day on March 2 because he wasn’t fully healed, and he watched his name slip down mock drafts everywhere.
 
But now, just days before the draft, Cobb said that he feels great.
 
“It’s not only my quad, it’s also my mind that feels refreshed,” Cobb said. “I was having some trouble sleeping for a while just due to stress.” 
Cobb also has the film and numbers to back up his word. At his own personal pro day on April 13, Cobb worked out in front of 17 NFL teams. He ran through drills, took handoffs and caught passes without a hitch.
 
Although the 40-yard dash time recorded at that pro day came in a 4.6 seconds, a tad slower than his best times, Cobb left the workout healthy — his main goal.
 
“I remember during [my pro day] always thinking to myself, ‘just stay healthy,’” Cobb said. “I made it through. … Now, it’s time to wait and see where my future will take me.”