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Was Randall Cobb's Thursday Night Debut the "Greatest Night in Kentucky Wildcat Football History"?


After the 2011 NBA Draft in which five Kentucky Wildcat basketball players were picked in the first round, John Calipari made a rare mistake when he said the night was the “greatest night” in the history of Kentucky basketball.  With seven national titles in the trophy case, that kind of statement is borderline sacrilegious, but I got what Calipari was saying.

It was a historic night, yes.  And it served notice to the recruits that if you want to be drafted in the first round of the NBA, you come to Kentucky.  And that historic night in one fell swoop, erased the misconceptions and public image about Kentucky that had been set in recruits minds after a few years of subpar recruiting by both Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie.  Forget what ya heard, Kentucky produces NBA players.

Now with that in mind, you have to wonder if Randall Cobb’s season opening performance against the the New Orleans Saints was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky Wildcat football?  Don’t get me wrong.  I know that Kentucky’s recent wins over LSU, Auburn, and Georgia were bigger than Cobb’s night, but could Cobb’s performance help send the message that Kentucky produces NFL players and open some recruits eyes?

I think it can.  I mean, Kentucky has had some very solid players in the NFL, most notably Dermontti Dawson.   And Kentucky has several players in the NFL right now.  But they have never had a star at one of the “sexy positions” such as QB, WR, or RB capture the imagination like Cobb did Thursday?

Why do I think Cobb’s performance was so influential as compared to Kentucky’s 2011 NBA Draft Night?

First, it is the NFL.  And the NFL is by far, the biggest sport in the United States.  The most recent poll shows that 31% of Americans name football as their favorite sport.  Baseball was a distant second at 17%.  The NBA comes in at fifth with 6%, after college football and NASCAR.

Cobb’s performance came in a much hyped season opening game matching the last two super bowl champions on a national television audience.  Due to the Thursday night scheduling, everyone watched this game.  It was not buried in the middle of five other games on a Sunday afternoon.  This was the main event. And unlike Monday Night Football, it was not buried on cable and ESPN.  This was on NBC.  On the other hand, the NBA Draft is not really “must see TV” for the masses.  It’s buried on cable TV and while it is watched by recruits and basketball junkies does not capture the attention of the populace like even the NFL Draft does.

Due to the Thursday Night nature of the game, Cobb’s performance had a residual effect of about 72 hours before the next NFL game was played.  You could not turn on Sportscenter or go on the internet without seeing a story about Cobb or seeing his kickoff return.  It was an amazing play and Cobb appeared on Sports Center ad naseum on Friday to discuss the play.  He was even discussed on “Around the Horn” as well as countless sports shows.   And that is the wonder of the NFL.  With only 16 regular season games, each game is set on a huge stage.

Let’s not forget the fantasy football effect either.  It’s hard to find anyone that does not play Fantasy Football anymore and before the game, Randall Cobb was only on about 1% of rosters.  When waiver claims are completed on Tuesday or so, Cobb will more than likely be the biggest pickup in the league.  It sounds geeky, and it is, but do not underestimate the power of millions of fantasy footballers to drive a players profile upwards.

And finally, Randall Cobb plays on probably the best team in the NFL and one of the most storied franchises.  Seeing how the Packers played on Thursday, it’s a pretty good bet that the Packers may be making a return appearance in the world’s biggest sports stage, the Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl has made stars of average players like David Tyree.  Just imagine what can happen to Cobb’s stock if he can pull off a similar outstanding play in the Super Bowl?

I know that I may have gone overboard a bit in this article, but I do think that Cobb’s performance was huge for the University of Kentucky and its reputation nationally.  Considering that this is a program that has gone to five straight bowls, it gets very little respect nationally.  Having a player like Randall Cobb only helps to promote the Kentucky brand.

Throw in the fact that Stevie Johnson is an All Pro receiver with the Buffalo Bills and that Jacob Tamme is one of the top young TE’s in the league,  Kentucky is starting to get the players to boost the schools image amongst recruits and send the message that Kentucky does send players to the NFL.


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