PINETOPS – For Jonathan Cobb, the past week was bookended by two life-altering moments. Both come with years of responsibility.
On Monday, six days after the birth of his first child, Cobb was named as his father’s successor as the head football coach at SouthWest Edgecombe, his alma mater.
“I don’t want to work anywhere else,” Cobb said. “Even though there are huge challenges as far as filling those shoes, trying to do a great job here, trying to build a championship program, those are all things I’ll try to meet head on and do so because this is my home, and I love it so much.”
Cobb, 29, never thought he’d follow in his father’s footsteps. He never aspired to be a coach or a teacher until his final year at East Carolina University, when he came to one of his father’s first practices at SouthWest Edgecombe.
A seven-year-old Cobb had bawled when North Edgecombe lost in the 1991 state playoffs at Gates County, under the leadership of his father, Raymond Cobb. One of Jonathan Cobb’s greatest memories still is the 1995 state championship game, which was Raymond Cobb’s first state title.
Still, the ultimate draw for Jonathan Cobb was watching his father coach at the same school where he played football and golf just a few years earlier.
Jonathan Cobb started off as an assistant coach before he was hired on full-time by the school district in 2006.
From 2007 to 2010, Cobb was the head junior varsity coach and served as an assistant at the varsity level. Like he had since that tear-generating loss years ago, Jonathan Cobb was picking things up from his father every step of the way.
“I’ve been doing that for years, trying to soak in everything I could,” Cobb said. “The game of football is changing. It’s evolving. ... There’s always something new to learn. I’ve certainly been a student of coach Cobb’s.”
SouthWest Edgecombe put together a panel of players and parents, community leaders, athletics director Sandra Langley and principal Marc Whichard to make the decision.
What stuck with the panel about Jonathan Cobb was something his father never could do at SouthWest Edgecombe. Cobb told the committee that everyone else in Edgecombe County had a state championship – Tarboro and North Edgecombe. He told them it was SouthWest Edgecombe’s turn.
“You could tell he has a passion for the game,” Langley said. “He (has) some really good views on getting this program to the state championship. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Raymond Cobb, the namesake of Jonathan Cobb’s first child, likely won’t be far from the field. Jonathan Cobb said that he’ll speak with his father, who expressed interest in potentially joining the staff as a full-time assistant in the future.
For now, Raymond Cobb joked that he’ll probably just sit in the press box and talk to his son about his newest grandchild.
But having the elder Cobb on staff would be a benefit as Jonathan Cobb takes his first head varsity football coaching job.
“We’re going to have to talk about it,” Jonathan Cobb said, looking at his father and smiling.
Raymond Cobb officially will retire from teaching after the new year, after completing his last year as head football coach this season.
Raymond Cobb leaves as the second winningest coach in SouthWest Edgecombe history, just two wins behind Jimmy Tillman. Raymond Cobb won 253 games in his 25 years as a head coach. He won two state championships, three regional titles and 11 conference titles.
“Early on, I think it’ll be important that he starts his own program,” Raymond Cobb said of his son. “If he thinks I’m a good resource, then he has a good resource back there to get advice from.”
Less than two years ago, Jonathan Cobb left the coaching and teaching world for a job selling insurance. It was something he had to do.
He had to make sure he wanted to be a coach.
A month into the job, he knew it wasn’t right.
“I knew without a doubt that there was no place I want to be more than in a classroom and on the football field,” Cobb said. “It was one of those things where you learn the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It gave me direction and purpose in my life.”
He returned to the place where he felt most comfortable – the field and the classroom. Now, he’s leading a team at a place he calls home.
“I can’t imagine wanting to coach anywhere else in the state,” Cobb said. “It’s home. The people I care about are in this community. They mean so much to me.
“I don’t want to live anywhere else in this world other than Southern Edgecombe County.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com