DeKalb County has immortalized a coaching icon by renaming Avondale Stadium to Napoleon B. Cobb Stadium at Avondale, celebrating the extraordinary life and career of Coach Cobb. The ceremony on February 8 was a celebratory tribute to Cobb, who passed away on January 31 at age 80, marking an everlasting tribute to his enormous impact on high school athletics in DeKalb County. By any measure, Coach Cobb was synonymous with dedication, excellence, and mentorship in football and track and field, beginning with his tenure at Gordon High School in the 1970s.

Jabari Cobb, the son of the celebrated coach, expressed his family’s deep gratitude towards this generous act, reminiscing about the thrilling contests and historic victories that unfolded under his father’s guidance at the stadium.

“Avondale Stadium was special to coach Cobb. There were many [athletic contests] here between Gordon and the Avondale Blue Devils and the Druid Hills Red Devils,” said Jabari Cobb. “They used to get it on here on Friday nights, and he would tell us these great stories about these great games.”

He completed his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Tennessee State University in 1964, following which he started working as a teacher and coach at DuSable High School in Chicago. After three years, he relocated to Berkeley, California, where he continued his teaching and coaching career, focusing on football and track at Berkeley High.

Coach Cobb’s return to Georgia was due to his mother’s declining health. A mentor encouraged him to consider DeKalb County Schools rather than Atlanta Public Schools (APS).

“He said, ‘When you come back to Georgia, instead of going to your native APS, there is a place called DeKalb. Some big things are happening, and you need to come here to DeKalb,’” Jabari said. “Even when he had opportunities to be the national coach for two different nations, he said, ‘But you know, it’s something about DeKalb.’ He had a love for the young men of DeKalb County.”

Coach Cobb and his wife bought a house near Gordon High School—now McNair Middle School—and he began teaching and coaching at Gordon in 1972, coaching alongside another legendary DeKalb County coach, William “Buck” Godfrey. Jabari said his father often told him that he felt something big was happening in DeKalb, and he didn’t want to miss it.

It’s hard to argue with the results.

After winning three state track and field titles, Cobb left Gordon in 1978 to coach at Morehouse College. He coached there for 11 years before returning to DeKalb in 1989 to teach and coach at Southwest DeKalb High School, reuniting with Godfrey.

During his first stint at Southwest DeKalb High, he won seven boys’ state track and field titles and helped send Terrance Trammell and Angelo Taylor to the 2000 Olympic Games. In 2004, he had the opportunity to coach Trammell and Taylor at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. In 2007, he left South DeKalb High to return to Morehouse College before returning in 2011. During this stint, he led the Panthers to two more state titles before he officially hung up his whistle after the 2016 season.

“His tireless efforts, both on and off the track, have impacted the lives of those he has coached. Coach Cobb has been a beacon of light, guiding us through the darkest times,” said Taylor. “Under his guidance, we have learned that success is not measured solely by victory but by the character and integrity we display on and off the track.

“I want to thank Coach Cobb for believing in us, even when we doubted ourselves. May this stadium forever stand as a testament to his remarkable legacy.”
Georgia State Rep. Omari Crawford was another of Coach Cobb’s proteges who credits him with helping achieve their collegiate and personal aspirations. He is excited that a stadium in the state district he represents would bear his coach’s name.

“Coach Cobb has helped thousands of young Black student-athletes get into college. I spoke to him frequently to express my happiness of being a part of his legacy,” Crawford said. “While this man is a giant, someone everyone knows, I’m most happy about the service he provided. I’m grateful for his legacy of developing young men like me.”

Throughout his tenure, Coach Cobb was not just a coach but a mentor, friend, and father figure to many. His coaching philosophy extended beyond the track and the football field, focusing on character-building, integrity, and the holistic development of his athletes.

All told, the celebrated coach finished his coaching career with an impressive 11 state titles, a national championship, and 16 county titles. The District’s track and field championship meet is named after Coach Cobb.

The renowned coach received numerous awards and accolades before his retirement. He was voted Georgia High School Athletics Track and Field Coach of the Year 10 times, honored by the National Track and Field Association as the Southeastern Regional Track and Field Coach of the Year, selected as Atlanta Track Club’s Coach of the Year three times, recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the personal coach for an Olympic athlete, inducted into the Southwest DeKalb High School Hall of Fame, and installed into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015.

Board member Vickie B. Turner advocated for Coach Cobb to receive this honor for years as a tribute to his impressive, lifelong embodiment of character and influence.

“When I met him in this season of life, he was a little quieter and very gentle. But everything I’ve learned about him—everyone spoke of him being a giant,” she said. “I pray that his spirit lives in many of you that are here because it would be a travesty if this [stadium] is all there is. Something has to become living, intangible, and touchable that lives on, and that is you, and that is what our children need.”

DCSD Superintendent Dr. Devon Q. Horton never had the opportunity to meet Coach Cobb. Nonetheless, he expressed his admiration upon learning about the coach and his positive impact on DCSD’s student-athletes.

“Some of his former students describe him as one who had a positive impact on their life,” said Dr. Horton. “Others talk about his unique style of coaching, and others mentioned his intentionality at building character and integrity. What a man, Coach Napoleon Cobb was.”