Hall of Fame Southwest DeKalb track coach Napoleon Cobb dies

Won 11 state titles; developed Olympic medalists Taylor, Trammell
AJC file photo of legendary high school track and field coach Napoleon Cobb with working star pupil Angelo Taylor, his former athlete at Southwest DeKalb, while preparing Taylor for the Olympics.

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

AJC file photo of legendary high school track and field coach Napoleon Cobb with working star pupil Angelo Taylor, his former athlete at Southwest DeKalb, while preparing Taylor for the Olympics.

Napoleon Cobb, the Hall of Fame track-and-field coach from Southwest DeKalb High who developed Olympic medalists Terrence Trammell and Angelo Taylor, died late Tuesday evening. He was 80.

Cobb also was a prominent football coach and offensive coordinator for Southwest DeKalb during its glory days under coach Buck Godfrey, his close friend for decades.

Cobb retired from Southwest DeKalb in 2015 after winning his 11th boys track-and-field state championship. Cobb was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame later that year.

Cobb was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2014 and later sustained a broken hip, which hastened his retirement from coaching after 50 years, including 14 years at Morehouse.

‘’This is a big blow to our community,’’ said Quincy Carter, the quarterback of Southwest DeKalb’s 1995 state championship football team that also featured Taylor and Trammell. ‘’Coach Cobb wasn’t very outspoken or loud, but he got his point across in such a unique way. He just loved us and cared about us. He meant the world to a lot of people.’’

Carter said he got word of Cobb’s death Tuesday morning from Cobb’s caregiver.

Cobb was a graduate of Atlanta’s Turner High and ran track in the 1960s at Tennessee State, where he was influenced by the style and success of Ed Temple, coach of the famous Tigerbelles and Olympic champions Wilma Rudolph and Wyomia Tyus.

Cobb coached in California and Illinois before returning to to his home state in 1972. His track teams at DeKalb County’s Gordon High won state titles in 1975, 1976 and 1978.

Cobb became Gordon’s head football coach in 1977 and led the Generals to an 11-2 finish, a region title and Class 2A semifinals in his only season.

In 1978, Morehouse hired him to be its track coach and football offensive coordinator. Cobb’s track-and-field teams were SIAC champions or runners-up 10 times.

Cobb returned to high schools in 1989, joining Southwest DeKalb’s staff as track coach and football offensive coordinator. With Cobb and Godfrey working in tandem – the two were born on the same April day in 1943 – the school became a powerhouse in both sports, averaging 10.3 wins in football in the ‘90s and winning six state titles in track in an eight-year span.

Cobb joined Trammell and Taylor at the 2000 Olympics in Australia and was Trammell’s coach at the 2004 Olympics in Greece. Trammell won silver medals in the 100-meter hurdles in both Olympics, and Taylor won Olympic gold medals in the 400-meter hurdles in 2000 and 2008.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Coming Sunday: A closer look at Napoleon Cobb’s connection to the high school track and field community and how he guided the Southwest DeKalb track program to state dominance.

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