John Cobb and Ted Cooper were iconic football coaches and mentors in Bay County during the 1960s and 1970s.
Their final gift to the legacy of high school athletics here was an emotional return to that gentler yet prolific time through their deaths less than three weeks apart in October.
Cobb mostly is remembered as the man who engineered the lone state football championship in county history when he brought Bay High School to the Class 3A title in 1976. Yet his contemporaries, assistants and former players remember both a highly competitive and driven individual as well as a temperate molder of young men.
“He was the kindest, gentlest coach I’ve ever known, but he got the most out of you because you didn’t want to disappoint him,” said Jim Holsombake, who played under Cobb for three seasons and went on to play college football at LSU. “Before one game he talked about how the other team wanted to embarrass the (jersey) name our parents gave us in front of our friends and relatives.
“There never was a lot of screaming and yelling. He just made you want to play for him. I loved the man.”
Cooper came to Springfield in 1961 and became the first athletic director and football coach when Rutherford High School opened. He was head football coach until 1969, and later was principal at Southport Elementary School for 19 years.
“He was my mentor and my friend, the person I would most aspire to be like,” said Fred Goodwin, who played for Cooper at Rutherford and ultimately became the principal at Bay. “He impacted so many young men, and the thing that really was remarkable he remembered them, he stayed in touch. I don’t know anybody more respected than Ted Cooper.”
Cooper was 86 when he died in early October. Cobb was 84 when he died later in the month. Both of them left a lasting imprint, which is why they occupy together the No. 6 story in The News Herald sports department’s Top 10 list for 2012.
Although their football coaching careers did not overlap here, Cobb not returning to his alma mater as head coach until 1973, the men also shared a link with Blountstown.
Cobb grew up there before moving to Panama City where he was a star running back for Bay. Cooper coached Blountstown prior to relocating to Rutherford and he was honored on Aug. 31 when the school renamed the football venue Ted Cooper Stadium at Bowles Field. The gymnasium at Bay is named in honor of John L. Cobb.
Accolades poured in following the death of each man. Don Deaton played under Cobb when Cobb was an assistant coach at Memphis State and later came here to be an assistant under Cobb at Bay.
“He’s one of the finest men I was ever around, he was very ethical and treated people like he wanted them to treat him,” Deaton said.
Jim Kearce played for Cooper at Blountstown.
“He came in and brought class to this program,” Kearce said. “He could get your attention, but not with salty language. At the end of his seventh year they were starting the Rutherford program and they picked a very good guy to bring it stability.”