PINETOPS – After a successful 25-year career coaching high school football, SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars head coach Raymond Cobb is hanging up his whistle and stepping aside as head football coach. Cobb finished his career with 253 career wins and lost only 79 games, which 32 of them came while he was at SouthWest. He made the playoffs every year as a head coach and also won two state championships and coached in four state championship games.
"It has been fun coaching the players that I have coached," Cobb said. "I have made some great memories and some great friends along the way."
Cobb's career coaching football began in 1981 when he was named the North Edgecombe Warriors JV football coach. Cobb began his teaching career the previous year and coached baseball. Before the 81 season, the board of education was trying to do away with the football program, but they voted against it and kept the program alive in Leggett. During Cobb's first year as a JV football coach his team went 6-3.
After being an assistant on the varsity level and coaching under three different coaches, Cobb who was the athletic director at the time, took over the Warriors varsity team in 1988.
Cobb's first career win came during his first season as a varsity coach when his Warrior team defeated North Pitt. Later on that year they lost in the Eastern championship game 20-14.
In 1989, Cobb coached quarterback Orlando Whitaker, who broke the NCHSAA record for touchdown passes in a season with 69 and also had a sophomore running back named Milton Shaw who later went on to play at Clemson.
In 1990, Cobb and his Warriors played Tarboro for the first time and they defeated the Vikings 20-14, which that game gave Cobb lots of motivation as a coach because Vikings head coach at the time, Jim Brett said that was his worse loss ever.
In 1991, Cobb had Shaw, who was a senior, and was named the NCHSAA Player of the Year and was the only super prep All-American that Cobb ever coached.
During Shaw's senior season and through his recruiting process, Cobb had the opportunity to meet legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno who also brought Jerry Sandusky with him.
During Shaw's senior season, Cobb received calls from The Sporting News and other big media outlets asking about the recruiting process.
"I remember during Milton's last weeks leading up to national signing day I wouldn't even take calls anymore," Cobb said. "It was almost harassment. I can't even imagine what it is like today. It is probably 100 times as bad now."
During the 1994 season at North Edgecombe, Cobb didn't have a fullback that could block and had a lot of small backs on his team. He knew going into the Tobacco Belt Conference that his team would dominate during their first five games, so he worked on the Wishbone offense that he had plan on installing during practice during those five weeks. That offense would later be what helped Cobb's teams win the massive amounts of games that they won and also the state titles in 94 and 97.
"I still run into players that I coached at North Edgecombe and we still have good relationships," Cobb said. "I was so lucky to have had so many good coaches on my sideline to help me out."
As Cobb moved on in his career, he became the head coach at SouthWest Edgecombe in 2004. He still doesn't know why he left North Edgecombe, Cobb just felt the time was right for him to move on.
"I could see myself staying at North Edgecombe the entire time but something told me the time was right," Cobb said. "I have enjoyed coming over here (SouthWest) and coaching. I enjoyed going to the 2-A and 3-A level and coaching. I have been successful here also."
Cobb has become a mentor to numerous coaches throughout Edgecombe County who looked up to him and asked for advise when it came to football. Coaches have asked how Cobb went about practicing and preparing for games.
Cobb and Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock became very close friends early on in Craddock's tenure at Tarboro. Cobb invited Craddock to his practices and into his home to talk about football. Cobb saw something in Craddock that he thought could be something special to football in the county.
Cobb said he is who he is because of the mentors that he has had. He learned by asking people advise through the years and by watching what other people did. He has taken ideas from other coaches and used them to benefit his programs.
"I have always felt the obligation to help somebody else if they asked for it," Cobb said. "I saw things in young coaches around here that I thought could be positive and I was glad to help them."
Cobb said his success has not been all football, because he said the success is in helping kids that come through a coaches program. It is to make them become better people. Coaches can't save them all, but Cobb believed in giving kids another chance and he saw players become better people because of those extra opportunities that he gave them. He saw many kids learn from their mistakes and take advantage of the chance and make better for themselves.
"I think being successful is not about winning and losing games," Cobb said. "It is making the program feel like a family atmosphere. Seeing young men grow up and become better people are the life lessons I think have been part of my success."
The most devastating moment Cobb said happened during his career was in 2001 when Rodney Dickens had his neck broken and was paralyzed. Cobb will never forget that moment. He went to visit Dickens in the hospital in Greenville everyday before practice and he still continues to visit him now.
"It was a devastating memory but watching somebody handle that situation like Rodney did was amazing," Cobb said. "If I were to go see Rodney now he is going to smile and talk about old times. That is just a memory I will never forget."
Cobb believed that Dickens made everyone at North Edgecombe during that time all better because of the way he and his family handled the situation.
The most memorable moment for Cobb was winning the two state championships.
Cobb had thought about retiring after last season, but he wanted to give it one more year. He changed his mind after he had the football players from this years team in his weightlifting class and thought about letting them down if he didn't coach them one more year.
Now that Cobb has decided to step down, he said it is because he thinks it is time for new blood to come into the program and take over. Cobb said he still loves practices and Friday nights. He continued on to say that being in teaching for 33 years he had enough of though.
"The coaching part is not the reason I am retiring," Cobb said. "Day in and day out, the wear and tear on teachers has finally reached that point and it is time to let somebody else do that."
Cobb is going to miss the relationships with the players and the coaches that he has coached with and against. He has developed great relationships with coaches throughout his career. He has gotten to know a lot of coaches.
Cobb said if a job ever came open anywhere else he couldn't see his self taking it. He said he is never going to say never but he just doesn't see himself doing that.
Cobb is looking forward to retirement, because he is going to become a grandfather soon. He said he is going to do some more hunting and play a little more golf during his spare time.
He said it is just time to do something a little different then what he has done for the last 33 years.