USC’s Mason Cobb will help dig a grave for his grandfather, who taught him how to work

USC linebacker Mason Cobb in the first half during a game against Arizona State.
USC linebacker Mason Cobb
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
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Paul Haws was a hard-working cowboy. His grandson is a warrior.

Mason Cobb got his mentality from his grandfather, and after Haws died Friday at the age of 90, USC’s senior linebacker is carrying on the family’s hard-working legacy as he anchors the Trojans defense.

“He’s a soldier, man,” Cobb said Tuesday after practice. “An OG, man. … He worked until his last breath.”

A day after Haws’ death, Cobb took the field at Notre Dame, honoring his grandfather with five tackles in the rivalry game. Cobb will return home to Utah for the funeral service Thursday before the No. 18 Trojans (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) host No. 14 Utah (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday. The family, including Cobb, will be tasked with digging Haws’ grave, as stipulated in his will. No machines allowed.


“And it’s not no grass,” Cobb added. “It’s like gravel and boulders.”

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Oct. 14, 2023

The last wish feels fitting for a man who Cobb said taught him perseverance. Haws lost his mother when he was 18 months old and his father when he was 16. He was deployed in Hawaii, where he met Cobb’s grandmother. Although Haws was long retired by the time Cobb was growing up, he remembered his grandfather doing side jobs around town and working on mobile homes with Cobb’s uncles.

“There’s no excuse for you not to work hard,” Cobb said of what he learned from his grandfather. “From a young age, I’ve seen him work circles around everybody, from when he was 60 to when he was 90. Just his mentality and that guy just taught me how to work.”

Cobb, whose mother Ruth calls her fifth son her “warrior,” has taken that same mentality to USC. The Oklahoma State transfer quickly cemented his starting role at inside linebacker and earned teammates’ respect, voted a team captain only months after arriving. Cobb ranks third on the Trojans with 31 tackles despite missing two games.

USC linebacker Mason Cobb tackles San José State wide receiver Isaac Jernagin.
USC linebacker Mason Cobb (13) tackles San José State wide receiver Isaac Jernagin during the first half at the Coliseum.
(Ryan Sun / Associated Press)

“From a character standpoint, checks every box. From an effort standpoint, checks every box,” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said during the summer. “Mason’s one of those guys that expects to make the play on every single day. And you can see it.”

Cobb is anchoring USC’s defense despite fighting through a nagging rib injury. The senior started the season opener but missed games against Nevada and Stanford. He said he is managing the injury with stretching techniques, but a rib “came out of place” against Arizona on Oct. 7.


He still played every defensive snap of the triple-overtime game and made the game-clinching tackle.

“I love the pain and the game, man,” Cobb said after the thrilling win. “That’s what it’s all about.”

USC’s offensive line struggled during the Trojans’ loss Saturday, giving up six sacks to a Notre Dame defense not known for pressuring quarterbacks.

Oct. 15, 2023

Cobb was flying from game day adrenaline when he learned of his grandfather’s declining health after the win. He returned home to be with family during the week and joined the Trojans in Indiana before facing Notre Dame. Haws’ death “happened so fast,” Cobb said, and “everything started coming down on me,” especially with USC suffering its first loss of the season to the Irish.

“It was a lot to handle,” Cobb said. “But this is times when you take that next step to being a better player and a better person, pushing through those setbacks in life.”