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Johnny Cobb: Part of GSU’s success story

September 01, 2017

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For some, fall is a time for campfires, s’mores and cozy sweaters. For the city of Statesboro, the changing leaves and chilly weather revolves around one thing: football. From the Friday night lights to the vigorous student section at GSU’s Paulson Stadium, we live for the sport. Some of our most admirable hometown heroes are molded by the grit and hard work that comes from being a team player. This includes Johnny Cobb, member of the state championship 1966 football team, UGA graduate and renowned entrepreneur. Connect had the privilege of talking with Cobb about his accomplishments both on the field, and in the business world. The following is an excerpt of the interview.

Connect Magazine: Let’s start with some background on your athletic endeavors. How many years were you active in sports?

Johnny Cobb: I played running back in high school from 1964-67. Also in high school I ran track from 1964-68. Then I was a running back and defensive back at the University of Georgia from 1968-71. I spent about 12 years total in sports.

C: Who or what got you interested? Was there an influence in your life that made you want to become an athlete?

JC: Back in those days in Statesboro, everybody went down to the recreation department every day. You would ride your bicycle down there, or you could walk, and you would stay there from early in the morning until almost dark. They had sporting events like baseball, football, basketball and track, ever since you were a “Lucky Seven,” which was the first thing they offered to 7-year-olds. That’s how I got started, with the Statesboro Recreation Department.

C: While we are on the subject of growing up in Statesboro, what was it like during your youth?

JC: The times seemed a whole lot slower back then. It was kind of like Mayberry, I guess. I lived on Woodrow Avenue which was on the other side of the First Baptist Church, and I had a big barn behind my house. When I was young I had a horse, even though it was right in the middle of town. I would ride my bicycle to the recreation department when I was 8 years old. It was a pretty far distance to travel from my house. It wasn’t a big deal to do that back then because things were a lot safer.

C: It must have been easier to focus on your sports under those conditions. What were some of your biggest accomplishments in high school and college?

JC: From high school, I have three accomplishments. One was being a member of the state championship 1966 football team. The second was winning the state track meet for the 100-yard dash in 1967. The third thing was running 9.9 seconds for the 100-yard dash in high school.

C: That’s outstanding. What about at UGA?

JC: Just being on the team for four years and getting to play was my biggest accomplishment at Georgia.

C: That is a big achievement, along with getting your education. What was your degree in?

JC: I got a Bachelor of Business Administration. They actually taught me how to be president of Coca-Cola, but Coca-Cola never called me. So I went back to Statesboro to work with a good friend of mine, Rex Childs, in the real estate auction business. Rex is still one of my best friends, and we still do auctions together.

C: Are there any upcoming auctions on your radar?

JC: We’re going to Chicago next week to do one.

C: Do you still do auctions in Statesboro?

JC: No. I owned Century 21 for around 30 years. I was in the construction business and the auction business. I had a really good career but I’m just doing auctions now. I will tell you my most impressive accomplishment in the real estate business was selling Erk Russel his house when he came to Statesboro.

C: Wow! That is very impressive. 

JC: I jokingly say that I’m the reason that Georgia Southern is a university.

C: Well, I’d say you are a huge contributor to Georgia Southern’s success story. Where was his house located?

JC: It was in Hazelwood.

C: That is a great memory for you. It sounds like you have had some even bigger accomplishments outside of your sports.

JC: Yeah, it was really unique because I enjoyed the real estate part of it, and I enjoyed the construction and auction part of it. We also built subdivisions in Statesboro, so something was going on all the time.

C: I assume you stayed pretty busy. What were some of the things you did in training and at work that proved to be keys to your success?

JC: As far as training goes, I really didn’t have to train a lot. My father was a veterinarian in Statesboro for 20 years, so from the time I was eight or nine, all the way up to 20 years old, I had to handle cows and hogs for him every summer. I got pretty strong doing that. I never even lifted weights until I got to UGA.

C: What were your biggest obstacles and how did you overcome them during your seasons?

JC: Well, the first thing was that I played football for Statesboro when I was a true freshman. There were about three other guys my age on the team and we didn’t know anything. We had to learn pretty quickly. I remember our first football game was against Hinesville, and that year they went on and won the state championship, but we played them in the first game of the season. We couldn’t play them at our home field because it wasn’t ready yet, since we were moving to the new building. We had to go to Sylvania to play them. To make matters worse, there was a hurricane. You couldn’t even see across the field because it was raining so hard. And of course, with it being my first high school football game it was really scary. I was petrified, pretty much. So, facing the storm and playing such a great team would be my biggest obstacles.

C: Overall, how did your team do that year?

JC: I think we won maybe six games. 


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