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Randall Cobb and Charlie Strong: Noteworthy men from opposite sides

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By Bob Watkins

“One thing Coach (Randy) Sanders always talks about is making memories,” Randall Cobb said last week. “I have made many with my teammates, coaches, administration, and fans that I will never forget.”

Ah, the college experience.

Probably Cobb made a diary notation also for Saturday January 15, 2011.

Scene: Rupp Arena, LSU and Kentucky. Break in play, the traditional K-E-N-T-U-C-K-Y cheer at the end of which Cobb strolled toward midcourt and lifted his arms into the familiar Y. A titan-worthy ‘thank you’ cheer went up from the crowd for the kid from Alcoha. The school’s newest All-American basked in the Love Glow from Big Blue Nation.

Cobb is more than another football star gone agleaming into that good (Sun)day. From the start, keeping his commit to UK, he grew into the quintessential college athlete. Skill and class poured into 5-feet-11, 186-pound power-pack that seemed at times indestructible despite the fierce target hits he weathered in SEC play. Strike a match on his toughness.

“Kentucky is a great place to play football for many reasons,” he said last week. “I know without a doubt in my mind my teammates will carry on the tradition, and we will continue to recruit top athletes and develop the best players. I will continue to represent this university to the best of my ability and wear my UK Blue and White with pride.”

All-purpose yards, all-purpose character, all-purpose leader. This is All American.

Randall Cobb’s name belongs on a special wall of elites at Kentucky – Raphael Little, Derek Abney, Wesley Woodyard, on to Jim Kovach. List of football scholarship kids from other states who came to the Bluegrass State, became men at Kentucky.

KY. SPORTS PERSON 2010?

For Kentucky Sports Person of the Year for 2010, who would make your final ballot, one-through-10, and why?

Have fun with it. I did. My ballot last to first ...

10. Josh Harrellson. From Josh Who(?), destined for mop-up minutes, became MVP at Yum Center New Year’s Eve and today is SEC rebounds leader, 9.5, rpg.
9. Shelvin Mack. Lexington native, led Butler to the NCAA title game against Duke. Named to the Final Four all-tournament team.
8. Bill Kennedy. Led Murray State to an OVC league and tournament title and a 31-5 season including an NCAA tourney first-round win over Vanderbilt. Was the Racers’ first NCAA win since Bush 41. Murray beat North Carolina State in 1988.
7. Larry French. Boyle County’s coach led his team to back-to-back unbeaten seasons, 2010 and 2009 and 4A titles. He coached Mr. Football 2010, Lamar Dawson.
6. Dale Mueller. Coached Fort Thomas Highlands to a 5A state title again, and became our state’s first ever coach to have nine state championships on his resume`.
5. Lamar Dawson. Mr. Football, linebacker, running back, logged big numbers on both sides of scrimmage. More, according to his coach, Dawson is a good student and citizen. May be best Kentucky prospect since Mr. Football Shaun Alexander went to Alabama in 1994.
4. Randall Cobb. Everyman for UK football. Would rate higher except at 5-11, 186 pounds, he could not lift Kentucky higher (6-7) by himself.
3. Calvin Borel. Rode Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. A Run-for-the-Roses hat trick for Borel. Three Derby winners in last four tries. More, Borel’s common man persona made him wildly popular.
2. Jim Host. Credited with pushing construction of KFC Yum Center, Host dedicated long work days to making metropolitan Louisville’s downtown state-of-the-art palace the talk of the sports world. Basketball and more, Yum Center will bring millions of dollars to Louisville and boost our state’s economy.
1. Charlie Strong. In his debut year, nobody had more impact on a state and program than Louisville’s football coach? Strong has produced a buzz state-wide, leading UofL to a winning season, bowl victory, and major impact on recruiting.
Exclamation point?
When Florida’s job opened Strong skipped the code words, “nobody has contacted me,” saying instead he was committed to his current job. Practice field to game day to fan interaction to wins column, Charlie Strong personified the best of sports in Kentucky.

PITINO COMEBACKS

Louisville’s incredible under-six-minute rally from 18 points down to beat Marquette had (at last) two notable sidelights.

1. Principal rally master on Saturday was Preston Knowles firing in shots from everywhere down the stretch. At the end however, it was an assist from the Winchester native that led to Kyle Kuric’s winning lay-up.
The dramatic win could re-set the Cardinals for their rugged Big East road ahead.
2. The Cardinals’ furious comeback was reminder of another Rick Pitino team. The year was 1994. Down by 31 points to LSU in Baton Rouge, Kentucky came back from a 31-point deficit to beat the Tigers, 99-95.
The rally was fueled by Travis Ford and Chris Harrison. Madisonville native Ford had 10 points and 12 assists. Little used Harrison of Tollesboro had eight points.

LARRY CONLEY

Popular basketball analyst for television, Larry Conley visited home last week. Speaking at a Kiwanis Club breakfast in Ashland, the man who was the heart of Rupp Runts, shared points of view, reported in the Daily Independent.

My favorite.

Conley wants college basketball to start in mid-December, not compete with football bowl games.

“No one in America pays attention to college basketball — except in Kentucky — about the season beginning in November,” he said. “It’s still football season. The attention begins to change over in mid-January.”

A mid-December start would be better for student-athletes academically, Conley added, because it would allow them to “have a semester under their belts before the season started.”

When Conley was at UK in the mid-60s, freshman played an abbreviated freshman schedule allowing players to ease into college life.

And, the Kittens allowed UK fans to watch then rub their hands together in anticipation.

“From an academic standpoint, it makes a lot of sense,” he said.

PARTING SHOT

Perhaps with the trash-talking bravado by the New York Jets before their win over the New England Patriots, this ...
“The underdog often starts the fight, and occasionally the upper dog deserves to win.” – Edgar Watson Howe

And so it goes.

Sports In Kentucky appears in community newspapers across Kentucky. You can reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com.