Mac Engel

Exclusive interview with father of imprisoned ex-Sooner: ‘Where did I go wrong?’

Parrish Cobb’s father discusses his son’s 18-year prison sentence

Former Baylor signee and Oklahoma football player Parrish Cobb of Waco was recently sentenced to 18 years in jail for aggravated robbery. His father, Collis Cobb, talks about his son.
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Former Baylor signee and Oklahoma football player Parrish Cobb of Waco was recently sentenced to 18 years in jail for aggravated robbery. His father, Collis Cobb, talks about his son.

No way this is right.

The New Orleans-style house is huge, located in a tidy cul-de-sac and a stone’s throw away from Lake Waco on the north side of town. The home is immaculate. There are cute dogs. A big yard. Framed pictures throughout a loving home. Games for kids. A fridge covered with family photos.

No way this is the childhood home of a young man who was just sentenced to 18 years for aggravated robbery.

“That’s why I invited you into my home,” Collis Cobb said. “I wanted people to know that was not the way we raised our child.

“This doesn’t make sense.”

In 2015, Parrish Cobb was one of the most celebrated high school athletes to ever come out of Waco. The defensive back/wide receiver even led La Vega to its first state title. He originally verbally committed to play for Oklahoma but then switched and signed with Baylor.

After then-head coach Art Briles was fired in May 2016, Cobb, like many players of that recruiting class, got out of his National Letter of Intent with Baylor and changed schools. He ended up at Oklahoma, where he played for one injury-filled season.

In January 2017, Cobb and some friends were arrested for the armed robbery of a Baylor student. He also had two other robbery charges against him in Waco and Bellmead.

In June 2018, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. His father said he is hopeful his son will be eligible for parole in eight years.

“You never adjust to your child being in jail,” Collis Cobb said quietly in his kitchen. “You sit back and think, ‘Where did I go wrong? How did I fail? Did I give too much? Was I too strict? Was I too demanding? What did I do as a parent to fail him?’”

There are no answers today, nor are any coming.

Despite the many advantages Collis and his wife worked to create for their son and two older daughters, they are dealing with the reality that so much of parenting is blind luck the moment the child leaves the house. They worked hard, tried their best, and their youngest child, who earned a full scholarship to play at Oklahoma, is still in jail.

They are left to ask why, to pray, to talk when he calls and to prepare for the day when he can come home.

‘You have to be mistaken’

Collis was awoken at 3 a.m. by the police at his door. Parrish, who was limited to four games as a true freshman at OU because of hamstring injuries, had come home not long after the Sooners’ win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2017.

On the morning of Jan. 10, 2017, Waco cops wanted to know whether Collis Cobb owned a Dodge Challenger.

“Where is my son?” he asked and invited the police into his house.

Parrish did not answer his phone. The cops told him Parrish was sought in the robbery attempt of a Baylor student on Jan. 10. He was linked to other armed robberies as well.

“You have to be mistaken,” Collis told them. “My son doesn’t have to rob anybody. We’re not rich, but we’re not struggling.”

Oklahoma suspended him immediately.

His high school coach at Waco La Vega, Willie Williams, told me in a phone interview that he believed Parrish had some friends from high school who pulled him in the wrong direction.

Cobb was an all-everything athlete with good grades, a pretty smile, handsome and the homecoming king.

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Loads of trophies and accomplishments adorn the "Fun Room" in the Cobb home in Waco. Mac Engel Star-Telegram

“When he came home after the Sugar Bowl, he got with this one guy and I couldn’t believe it,” Collis Cobb said. “Parrish would tell me, ‘It’s not like that.’ But there is something there. I don’t know if it was pressure .... I don’t know.”

What was he thinking?

Upstairs in the house, much of Parrish Cobb’s bedroom remains intact, as when he left for Norman in the fall of 2016. The edge of the bedroom mirror is still adorned with loads of credentials from the football camps he was invited to and the official and unofficial visits to various college campuses.

There is a giant stuffed dog between the bed and the window. This is not the bedroom of a thug. Some punk. Some hardened criminal.

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A giant stuffed dog sits in Parrish Cobb's bedroom at his childhood home in Waco. Mac Engel Star-Telegram

This is the bedroom of a teenager who was still a little kid.

Nothing in this home, or his bedroom, suggests there was any way Parrish would go down a path that would lead to a prison cell.

Certainly not the “fun room” on the first floor where Collis and his wife deliberately put in a Pop-A-Shot, a TV and an air hockey game, all designed to entice kids to the house and to keep them there.

Not the living room. Not the kitchen.

Collis is a manager at a nearby food plant. His wife works as a manager at Sam’s Club.

“I grew up in East Waco where we ran from the police and we heard the gunshots,” Collis said. “That’s not here.”

Parrish has two older sisters; the middle sister, Tianna, is currently enrolled at Oklahoma to earn her Ph.D. She could have attended Texas but chose OU to be closer to Parrish.

It’s in these moments that Collis wonders, repeatedly, what if his son had not attended Oklahoma but stayed at home to play for Baylor. Or gone to Texas, or elsewhere.

Tiny developments like this make Collis mad. He does not stay mad for too long because, as he said, there is no point.

He has to be strong and think of something to say when Parrish calls from jail. He is currently in McLennan County Jail; Collis is not sure when his son will be transferred, or to where.

He has asked his son to answer the one question anyone would wonder: What was he thinking?

“I want him to answer that not for me or his mother but for himself,” he said.

His son tells him what jail is like, who the good people are to align with. He reads a lot. Collis thinks his son is likely bored, too.

“He’s always on my mind. When I think about him, I think about his future and I try to think what we’re going to talk about when he calls so he can stay positive in there,” Collis said. “To think I could have talked to him whenever he was in Norman, I mean, you can’t think of that many topics to talk about. But when you have to, you realize you can, because that’s what is important. I want him to make sure he’s a part of our lives forever. There is a still a lot of life left.

“I just want him to have a plan so when he’s released, he can go out and be successful.”

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