MOBILE, Ala. — David Cobb wanted NFL scouts and coaches to be impressed with what they saw at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
Two sets of eyes on the sidelines at Ladd-Peebles Stadium — Golden Gophers Head Coach Jerry Kill and Special Teams Coach Jay Sawvel — already had been by the running back who emerged as a junior and posted consecutive seasons of more than 1,200 rushing yards.
"Great surprise," Cobb said on the field after practice Wednesday. "I don't think I've ever been that happy to see my head coach, but to see him on the sidelines and our special teams coach out here supporting me and smiling at me, saying, 'Keep going and they're proud of me.' That means a tremendous amount and makes me feel great."
Cobb led Minnesota with 1,626 rushing yards (11th most in FBS) and had 13 rushing touchdowns in 2014. He is one of three running backs from Big Ten schools on the roster of the North team that will meet the South team Saturday in the 66th annual game.
Cobb measured a little under 5-foot-11 and weighed in at 229 pounds Tuesday morning. He said he wanted to use three days of practices and the game to show the type of multidimensional skills — running the ball, catching it and helping in pass protection — that enable a back to garner more playing time.
"If you can't do one thing, there's another guy that can do two things," Cobb said. "I want to maximize every aspect of my game. I want to catch the ball, block, run. You want to be that complete package so you don't have to come off the field."
Cobb showed an ability to catch the ball and shift up field in Wednesday's practice and showed he isn't timid when carrying the ball. Rules of the Senior Bowl prohibit blitzing, so Cobb won't be challenged by a blitzer during the game, but he might be tasked with helping protect a QB if a lineman beats a blocker.
Former Gophers safety Tyrone Carter, who played the first two of his 11 pro seasons with the Vikings after Minnesota drafted him in 2000, has been mentoring Cobb and helping him train the past two years. Carter said he's watched nightly recordings of Senior Bowl practices to see how Cobb has done.
When Cobb asked Carter about working out, the "big brother" warned the prospect about the intensity of the plan and that quitting would not be acceptable.
"He started working out with me, and it was tough the first day," Carter said. "He came right back again, and I pushed him some more. He was sore the first week and came back again the next week and kept pushing to ask for more. The more I kept pushing, the more he wanted. It just paid dividends for him, and now he's able to see the hard work paying off for him. That's why I'm so proud of him.
"He busts his tail off. He's enjoying this moment and seizing this moment at the same time," Carter added. "As a big brother, I always told him anything you want in life, you can achieve it, but you've got to be willing to make those sacrifices and dedicate yourself to doing that, then it's going to come true. It did for me and it will for him. I was able to be in the league for 11 years and win two Super Bowl rings, but it took hard work to get that. If I would have listened to the people that said I couldn't do this or I was too short, or I wouldn't fit the prototype, I would have fallen to the wayside. You can't get caught up in that, and that's the main thing I told him."
Cobb and Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford, who had 1,522 rushing yards and 22 rushing scores in 2014 were assigned to be roommates. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who had 1,611 yards and 19 TDs on the ground, is also on the team.
Cobb and Langford have discovered camaraderie in the competition and helped each other along the way by learning the playbook in a short amount of time.
"It's a great, great opportunity, Cobb said. It's kind of overwhelming, but the whole process, if you love the game, you've got to be willing to put in those extra hours at night and study and try to quiz yourself in your head. We laugh, quiz each other, and get back to it.
"I've got my Minnesota M, and he's got his Michigan State on so at the same time you compete and have fun but you want to be the best out here," Cobb added.
Titans Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt said "different guys flashed different days" at running back. The Titans staff is coaching the North squad against a team led by Jaguars Head Coach and Minnesota native Gus Bradley. The game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (CT) on NFL Network.
"It's a good group. They're working hard," Whisenhunt said. "It will be interesting to see how they do when we get into the game, but they're having a nice week."
Langford said the running backs have enjoyed the Big Ten connection and the competition.
"That's the best part about rooming with him, he's a good back and so am I, and we're just having fun competing," said Langford who also traveled to the Gulf Coast with a goal of showing he can be a three-down back in the NFL.
After this week, Cobb will return to Los Angeles to resume training for the NFL Combine, which will occur next month in Indianapolis. He said he wants to increase strength to help his physical style and improve speed. Cobb looked comfortable when running into areas of traffic and effective when given space in Senior Bowl practices.
"I feel like that's my strength, running behind my pads and shedding tackles, and if I can make a guy miss, get vertical as quickly as possible," Cobb said. "You just do what you love doing and come out and listen to the coaches. You see all these scouts out here, and it's a dream come true to come out and showcase your talent."