EL PASO, Texas — Seventeen months ago, Jacob Cowing was making plays for Maricopa High School. Now he’s one of the most promising young wide receivers in Division I football.
Cowing was a star for the Maricopa Rams. There was never a doubt he was an elite high school player. He was the 2018 PinalCentral Football Player of the Year.
After a roller coaster recruitment process, where Cowing drew interest from several Power 5 programs, including Oregon, Texas and Arizona State, he accepted a scholarship from the University of Texas at El Paso.
It didn’t take long for the true freshman to make an impact for the Miners. Starting seven games and playing in all 12, Cowing led UTEP with 550 receiving yards, tied for the team lead with three receiving TDs and caught 31 passes, averaging 17.7 yards per catch.
His 550 receiving yards led all Conference USA freshmen and ranked No. 13 nationally among freshmen. He also set a school record for freshmen with 145 receiving yards against Charlotte on Oct. 24.
And he did all that with a constant carousel at quarterback.
The Miners went just 1-11, but Cowing was an undeniable bright spot, giving some hope to the program moving forward.
In the first week of fall practice, Cowing caught every pass and opened a few eyes.
“I caught onto the plays really quickly, and the coaches liked that a lot,” Cowing told PinalCentral. “I worked my butt off ... I took my dedication to a whole other level.”
He already had speed and athleticism. But Cowing said the biggest thing that helped him succeed so fast was learning to read coverages. After that, he said the game became much easier.
He had modest goals when he entered the program at UTEP. He wanted to play right away and not have to redshirt. He wanted to have at least 300 receiving yards.
As the weeks went by and Cowing started showing more on the field and getting more playing time, he set the bar higher. He wanted to eclipse 500 receiving yards, which he did.
“I knew what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve,” he said. “It’s pretty cool ... I feel really good about my accomplishments.”
Cowing impressed his coaches before the season even began. He was called into a meeting the week before the season, and he was told by head coach Dana Dimel and receivers coach Scotty O’Hara they liked what he was doing and expected him to make an impact.
When the season was over, they had Cowing in for another meeting, where he said Dimel and O’Hara told him he was now their “No. 1 guy” at receiver.
“It felt good for me,” he said. “As a freshman, it’s not heard of a lot. I took that to heart.”
And that encouragement from his coaches made Cowing want to work even harder heading into his sophomore season.
Setting the bar
As Cowing accomplishes more, he has adjusted expectations for his play and production accordingly. He wants to have at least 800 yards receiving in the 2020 season.
As a freshman, 441 of his 550 yards came in the last six games of the season. That late-season trajectory (73.5 yards per game), suggests he could have a breakout sophomore year.
Cowing is working hard to put himself in position to do just that.
With the COVID-19 outbreak affecting people all across the country, Cowing has had to make adjustments, just like anyone else. But he isn’t overly concerned.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m still taking safety precautions, washing my hands a lot.”
Cowing and some of his teammates are getting workouts in at a local gym. He said only UTEP football players are using the gym.
“We try to keep our distance from each other so we don’t get sick,” he said.
And Cowing has made big strides in strength and speed since graduating high school. He said he is “a lot faster” and has put on about 10 pounds of muscle. Cowing is a shade under 5-11 and now weighs 175 pounds.
And while he’s focused more on short-term goals and improvement, he said playing professional football after college is “a possibility” and has been a dream of his since a very young age.
Cowing is studying business administration and has a passion for cars. Owning his own auto shop is another possibility for his future.
“Football doesn’t last forever,” he said. “You’ve got to have a plan B.”