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Randall Cobb embraces the role of mentor

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GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb remembers being the wide-eyed kid at the summer sports camp, hanging on every word of the professional athlete whose name was on the marquee.

For the Packers veteran receiver, that individual was former New York Knicks guard Allan Houston. The two-time NBA All-Star’s grandparents lived in Cobb’s hometown of Alcoa, Tenn., so Houston occasionally would host a camp there.

It’s those early memories Cobb fondly reflects on now, while working with kids at his own Football ProCamp, taking place Wednesday and Thursday at Notre Dame Academy.

It’s the third year the Pro Bowl receiver has hosted the event, an instructional clinic for boys and girls from grades 1-8. His decision to get involved stems from a desire to not only give back to the community, but also provide young athletes with the platform Houston once offered him as a child.

“I loved the fact I got to interact with a professional athlete at such a young age. I hope they feel the same way being able to come out today,” said Cobb, who also has hosted events in his home state of Tennessee and Kentucky. “It’s just a lot of fun to come out and be a kid. I enjoy being around kids for that reason. You get to hear all their comments. They don’t hold anything back. It’s always a lot of fun just being around them.”

Participants were divided into three teams – the Tornadoes (the mascot of Cobb’s high school), the Wildcats (Cobb’s college) and the Packers. Cobb gave an introductory pep talk before teams were deployed to different posts around the field.

Along with signing autographs and taking pictures with campers, Cobb traveled from one station to another to work with kids throughout the day. His message centered on importance of fundamentals – from Pop Warner all the way to the NFL.

Playfully referring to this week’s festivities as the “pre-camp” to the start of the Packers’ actual training camp July 26, Cobb knows more will be asked of him a few miles down the road at Lambeau Field following the departure of Jordy Nelson.

Cobb is now the oldest player in the receivers’ room for the first time in his career. That’s new territory for a 27-year-old who is so often considered a younger brother to Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones.

A second-round pick out of Kentucky in 2011, Cobb was the first player born in the 1990s to be drafted in the NFL and appreciated having the likes of Driver, Jones, Jennings and Nelson to bounce things off during his first few seasons.

Now, the 5-foot-10, 192-pound receiver embraces filling the veteran role for Green Bay’s young receivers, especially rookie draft picks J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.

“It’s a different generation,” Cobb said. “They come in excited and ready for that opportunity like we all do at that age. I’ve switched sides now. I remember when I came in – Donald, Jordy, Greg, and J.J., they’re all married with kids or kids on the way.

“Now, I’m that guy and they’re looking at me as the old guy. It’s a lot of fun to be able to have some of the youth and be able to help them and see their careers take off.”

While Cobb and his wife are set to welcome their first child into the world next month, the eighth-year veteran is as eager as ever to get back to work and build the Packers’ next contender on the field.  

“Every year is different, but every year is a lot of fun,” Cobb said. “I think the biggest anticipation is catching up with everybody and hearing how their summer went, having that time to bond together because we’re with each other for 12, 14 hours a day through training camp and at the dorms.

“So it’s continuing to grow that bond and getting to know some of the younger guys and their life stories, and how they got to this position.”

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