"Go home," said Minnesota.
Gopher athletic officials shudder even now when someone suggests that they had a hand in Bobby's eastward migration. "Maybe he was a great football player," says a member of the coaching staff, "but he was poison. Any school that touched him with a 10-foot pole would have been in so much hot water with the NCAA they might never have gotten out.
"We told him we couldn't give him a scholarship, couldn't help him with a job and, in fact, would be only too happy if he just quietly went away. If he stayed, it was going to be his own business. Not ours."
"I went to Minnesota because I wanted to," he says. "I wanted to play pro football and I knew the Big Ten was the best league there was, the best jumping-off place for a pro career.
"I enrolled in school and hit the books and the only football I played was with the meat squad, the other in-eligibles and nubs, every day against the varsity on the practice field. I played defense and ran opponents' plays and helped coach the freshmen.
"After the season ended I went back to railroading, switching out in the yards from midnight till 8, and sometimes it would get down to 30 below and me out there in my West Coast clothes. When I got off work, I had an 8 o'clock class. What a year."
But when the 1956 season began, Bobby Cox was a regular, certified member of the University of Minnesota football team with all rights and privileges thereof. The only trouble was that with all his ability and fame he couldn't get on the first team. Ahead of him was a home-town boy named Dick Larson.
So Bobby sat on the bench and stewed, even when the Gophers went to Seattle to open the season against Cox's old teammates at the University of Washington. With the score tied at 7-7, Murray Warmath finally got tired of the hand tugging at his sleeve and sent Bobby in. Except for the weak cheers of 2,000 Walla Walla people who had traveled almost 275 miles to see the game, the stands booed. So Bobby, who is not fond of boos, ran with the ball twice, threw three passes and Minnesota had the touchdown which put them ahead to stay. Warmath took Cox out.
"Why did you pass on first down?" Bobby was asked later.