It didn’t take wide receiver Jacob Cowing long to make his presence known on the University of Arizona’s football roster.

In his first game as a Wildcat last year, the Maricopa High School grad torched San Diego State for 152 yards and three touchdowns as Arizona rolled to a 38-20 victory to open the season.

It was quite a statement for Cowing, who the year before was a Miner at University of Texas El Paso, a mid-major university.

As the 2022 season progressed, it became apparent Cowing was ready to make the jump to a Power Five conference. His first game with Arizona was anything but a flash in the pan.

Cowing led the Pac-12 in receptions with 85 and was fourth in the league in receiving yards with 1,034. His one-season reception total marked the third-best campaign among Arizona receivers all-time and the school’s best outing since Bobby Wade caught 93 passes in 2002.

During three seasons at UTEP, Cowing led the Miners in receiving each year. In 2021, he finished with 69 receptions for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished ninth nationally in receiving yards.

With college football success at all levels, Cowing was well positioned to enter the NFL draft. But earlier this year, he decided against it.

The reason? Cowing likes to finish what he starts.

In 2021, Arizona finished with a 1-11 record. Last year, with the help of Cowing, the Wildcats improved to 5-7. His goal this year is to improve upon that success.

Arizona wide receiver Jacob Cowing takes passes from receivers coach Kevin Cummings during preseason practice. [Bryan Mordt]
“I want to leave Arizona with a bang and knowing that I’ve helped build a good foundation for this program,” Cowing told InMaricopa. “I want to be part of something special and to see this team succeed.”

History seems to be on Cowing’s side in achieving his goal to help Arizona complete its turnaround. When he arrived at UTEP in 2019, the Miners were 1-11. In his final season in El Paso, the squad put together a 7-6 record, its first winning season since 2014.

When deciding whether to make the jump to the NFL, a player in Cowing’s situation must consider many factors. A big one for Cowing was teammates like quarterback Jayden de Laura.

Despite having never played together, the two quickly developed chemistry.

“We connected early,” Cowing said. “And it’s the same thing this year. We crack jokes, but at the end of the day, we’re both very serious about the game and trying to provide for our families and continue to play the game that we love and those are the things that matter.”

Kevin Cummings, Arizona’s wide receivers coach, said Cowing’s return brings only upside.

“I think he understands that he can go out there again and put up huge numbers and has the opportunity to be an early draft pick,” Cummings said.

“He’s one of the top receivers in the country as far as receiving yards. He knows that all he has to do is keep working.”

It seems that, for Cowing, the desire to keep working is embedded in his very DNA.
De Laura picked up on Cowing’s work ethic immediately as the two became fast friends last spring.

“Jacob attacks everything like a professional,” de Laura said. “He comes in early and leaves late.”

The quarterback said Cowing’s blue-collar approach extends to all facets of his life.

“I look up to Jacob and it’s not just with school and football,” de Laura said.

“He’s got a son to take care of and it’s just the hard work and dedication he puts into the ultimate goal of getting to the next level.”

De Laura isn’t the only player who looks to Cowing as a leader. Sophomore wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan has taken notice of his teammate’s sustained success.

“He’s done it in two conferences,” McMillan said. “He’s the captain of our offense and the best receiver on the team. I learn from him each day, whether it’s film study, rehab, nutrition and his mobility and overall ability to make plays.”

With Cowing’s work ethic, anything is possible, Cummings said.

“I think the sky’s the limit for Jacob,” he said.

Making his way back home
After his third season at UTEP, Cowing accomplished many goals in the sport. But since becoming a father his freshman year, he had a yearning to be closer to home.

The separation from his son, Chase, ate at Cowing as the miles between Maricopa and El Paso seemed to widen.

“I wanted him to not have to travel six hours to come and watch my games,” Cowing said. “I wanted him to be part of my last two years of college.”

During the pandemic, the NCAA offered athletes an extra year of eligibility. Even though Cowing played three seasons at UTEP, he had two more seasons to play — ideally, somewhere closer to home.

But the question was, where would that be?

Cowing’s stat line made him an attractive option for many schools. When he entered the NCAA’s transfer portal last year, he garnered scholarship offers from Arizona State University, Mississippi State University, Louisiana State University and the UofA.

Ultimately, a connection with Arizona Head Coach Jedd Fisch was the deciding factor.

“He talked to me about elevating my game and talked to me about where I wanted to get as a player,” Cowing said. “I trusted him and I feel that since I’ve come here, I’ve not only grown as a player, but my IQ as a player has changed.”

Cowing lived in Maricopa most of his life. The son of Monte Cowing and Nycole Parker, he has two sisters.

“I’d been there since I was 5 years old,” Cowing said. “I grew up there. I was born in the Phoenix area, so I was kind of familiar with the whole Tucson area, so it’s kind of like home to me.”

At Maricopa High School, Cowing was considered one of Arizona’s top prep receivers. He caught 89 passes for 2,065 yards and 21 touchdowns during his high school career.

Extra points: Cowing was voted Preseason All-Pac-12 Second Team and is on watchlists for the Maxwell, Paul Hornung and Biletnikoff awards. Had Cowing entered the NFL draft, scouting services projected he would have been selected in the fourth round.


This story was first published in the September edition of InMaricopa Magazine.