The past week has had more ups and downs than the Great Smoky Mountains that surrounded Randall Cobb's hometown growing up.
Last weekend the former Kentucky and current Green Bay Packers wide receiver worried he wouldn't be able to play in the NFC championship game as he sat in the hospital the night before with what he thought was appendicitis.
Cleared to play, Cobb led the Packers with seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown against Seattle.
But he was helpless as he watched the Seahawks mount an unlikely comeback and win in overtime, denying him a trip to the Super Bowl.
"It's definitely tough, definitely tough," Cobb told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. "But that's part of it. That's part of how it goes. You have to get over things in life and I'm just trying to deal with it the best I can."
It's been a little bit easier for the 24-year-old receiver to put the heartbreak behind him with what's ahead of him: his first career Pro Bowl game on Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz.
"When you're a kid you always want to play in the Super Bowl and be a Pro Bowler. And get to play on those two levels, that means you've reached the highest possible platform in your game," he said via phone as he walked off the practice field last week. "It's a great honor to be here and be a part of it."
Cobb, who learned a couple of weeks ago that he'd be replacing injured Dallas star Dez Bryant in the Pro Bowl, is the first Kentucky player to earn a spot in the NFL all-star game since Dermontti Dawson in 1998.
UK says the program has been represented in the Pro Bowl 46 times before. When asked if there was any way he planned to represent Kentucky in the game, Cobb said he already was doing his part.
"I'm here," he said laughing. "That's plenty of representation that I'm here."
Cobb said he keeps up with what's going on at his former school and has been impressed with the job Mark Stoops has done since taking over as head coach.
"I talk to him occasionally," Cobb said of the UK coach. "We keep in touch as best we can. We both have busy schedules and other things we have to do. But I think he's doing a great job with the program. I love what he's doing there."
As for Cobb, his future beyond the Pro Bowl is still up in the air.
The former UK wide receiver/quarterback had his best pro season, catching 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, setting him up for a nice payday as an unrestricted free agent.
In several interviews, Cobb has indicated he'd like to stay with Green Bay, where he's played all four years of his NFL career and had 227 catches for 3,049 yards and 25 TD catches to go with three kick returns for touchdowns.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said Thursday. "It's a long time to decide that. I'm just going to let time do its part and whatever happens happens. It's a blessing either way."
He's trying to enjoy the ride, enjoy the Pro Bowl, enjoy the high.
He's had enough lows.
"It's great to be here and it's just overwhelming when you think about the past week that I've had, the highs and lows," Cobb said. "It's been a roller-coaster ride, but I'm glad to be here."
Dawson gets intel from Brown
New Kentucky offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson did his homework on the Wildcats before accepting a job on Coach Mark Stoops' staff.
That homework included speaking with his predecessor, Neal Brown, who left to become head coach at Troy.
"'You're going to love working for Coach Stoops,'" Dawson said Brown told him. "'They've got everything going in the right direction. Facility upgrades are off the chart.' Stuff like that."
But while he had his predecessor on the phone, Dawson didn't discuss UK personnel as much as the place.
"He talked about their foundation that they've set," said Dawson, who came to the Wildcats from West Virginia. "He said, 'It wasn't necessarily the same Year 1, and I had to manipulate some things,' but he said, 'As the years go, I feel like you'll be able to do whatever you want to do, because I think the level of talent is going to improve with those guys recruiting.'
"So I talked to him about the people — not as much the players — and about the opportunity."
'Amazing behind the scenes'
Speaking of Brown, before he left Kentucky to take the head coaching job at Troy, I asked the former player and offensive coordinator about the major changes around the program in such a short time.
The $120 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium and the $45 million football practice facility with nearby practice fields were projects that seemed like pipe dreams a few years before.
The likely influx of television revenue from the SEC Network has helped, but Brown said most don't know the behind-the-scenes work that was done by UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and President Eli Capilouto to get the stadium renovations off the ground.
As for the practice facility, Brown credited his former boss Stoops with the speed in which that happened.
"He's done a ton of goodwill work and fundraising work to make that football facility become a reality," Brown said of the facility, which is expected to open next spring.
"So a lot of credit should go to him on that. He's done a great job behind the scenes. He's done a great job fundraising and a great job as a grass roots movement and spreading goodwill around the community. Mark and (wife) Chantel both. A lot of that goes unnoticed, but they've been amazing behind the scenes."