Style and engaging smile.
Those are the two obvious personality traits when you first come in contact with Texas senior guard Tamra Cobbins. Her smile, as associate head coach Karen Aston asserts, "Absolutely lights up the room", while the diminutive 5-3 Longhorn guard, despite her slight build, has a big presence.
Behind that smile you find a young student-athlete who came to UT from Kansas City, Kansas as an All-State guard, knowing absolutely no one in Texas and fighting incredible homesickness, all the while playing a limited role (8.3 minutes per game) for the Longhorns team which went to the Final Four.
Now, four years later, Tamra is blossoming.
She is set to finish her corporate communications degree this summer. A talented singer who, "grew up in the church", Tamra loves gospel music and has graced UT audiences by singing a cappella at Longhorns Athletics luncheons and banquets.
Tamra's personality, warm on-camera presence and humor radiates as she hosts a special TexasSports.com video segment entitled "1 on One" this season. (The internet video is a behind-the-scenes look at Texas women's basketball, with Tamra (who wears uniform #1) interviewing teammates and coaches one-on-one).
On the basketball court, the senior who has spent many hours cheering and encouraging from the sidelines is now getting a chance to make contributions as a defensive stopper. In the last six games, Cobbins is averaging 12 minutes of playing time per game.
Aston, who works with the Texas defense, states that "Tamra has the ability to change the tempo of a game with her defensive pressure. The fact that she has accepted that role off the bench as a senior shows her maturity. Being that "tempo-changer" for us is a key role."
"One thing I know I can bring to the court every day is defensive intensity on top of the defense," Cobbins said. "I can help set the tone with how hard I play."
"These early-season losses were unexpected, due to our talent and potential, and that just makes the upperclassmen work that harder to get the team together," explained Cobbins. "We are all learning how to jell better, and the game Wednesday against Iowa State is a testament to what we can do when we come together. We are not using injuries as a crutch; we have enough talent on this team to produce every game. We just need to keep buckling down on defense."
During the semester break, Cobbins says all her attention has been given to on-the-court work.
"I want all the fans of our popular '1 on One" video show to know I'll be back soon!," Cobbins laughed. "Seriously, the last few weeks has been a time of getting our team on track - it's not been a time for fun and games. We took a break from the show, but catch my show next week!"
"Off the court, I think of Tamra as the team comedian," Aston laughed. "She has an infectious smile. We coaches know that she has an uncanny ability to imitate all of us! Most important, Tamra has the ability to make people laugh. That is a great gift."
On camera, Cobbins IS a natural, full of charm, wit and great questions. When asked about her ease in front of the camera and her public singing, Cobbins remarked that "I guess I am OK with performing now! Growing up and singing and speaking in front of church has helped prepare me. Over time and repetition, I got less nervous speaking and singing.
To be the host of this video is really a blessing, and I am happy to be asked. Once people call you and ask you to sing, I see it as a small way to give back to The University, which has been so wonderful to me."
Tonight, as the Longhorns get ready to square off against No. 24 Missouri, Cobbins uncharacteristically has some mixed feelings about going head-to-head defensively with one particular opponent - 5-5 junior transfer guard Marchele Campbell, a teammate and close friend of Tamra's from their high school playing days at Schlagle HS in Kansas City.
"We were cold (tight) in high school," laughed Tamra. "We were so competitive together on the court. She is one of my closest friends and is a junior college transfer from Florida, playing her first year at Missouri. In fact, I consider her family as my second family and her parents, Mike and Peggy Campbell, as my second set of parents. It will be strange to go against her if I have that chance, but I welcome it."
Following graduation, a career in marketing or sales is in Cobbins' sight.
"I would love to work for the Nike corporation," she remarked. "That would combine my love for sports with my career. I am willing to relocate, and would love to work on Nike's (Beaverton) campus in Oregon. If anyone from Nike reads this, please know I am willing to relocate as soon as I can!"
Until then, however, Cobbins still has important roles to fulfill for the Longhorns. And, she has a message to leave.
"I've been through a whole lot," Cobbins admitted. "I'll be the first in my Mom's family to graduate from college, but it hasn't been easy. I battled awful homesickness, and I searched for a home away from home and found it in my church - Christ Community Church. It's great to have friends outside of basketball, too - it gives you balance.
I always tell people - stay positive. Give back. You never know when an opportunity will come open for you. This year is a testament to that. If I hadn't stayed positive and kept working hard, I wouldn't have been able to step up when Coach Conradt called on me."