Joined at the stripes


Quan Cosby

They have the same birthday.

Dec. 23.

They have the same legacy.

The most prolific pass-catching duo in the history of the University of Texas. 

Now they have the same stripes.

Jordan Shipley showed up again Friday night and it got Quan Cosby thinking about the first time he and his best friend "busted out" laughing. It was the first time they met at the University of Texas and Shipley came up to Cosby.

"Do you remember running track at Glen Rose?" Shipley asked and as Cosby tried to flash back to those state qualifiers, Shipley asked another one.

"You remember that one little white boy?" and when Cosby asked "That was you?" they broke out in laughter and they have been tight ever since. The man that Cosby calls "my best friend" is now in the Bengals wide receiver mix thanks to that third-round draft pick, and that means he is going to offer severe competition for Cosby to keep his job. Cosby, 27, has three years on Shipley. But the 6-0 Shipley has three inches, about 10 pounds, and a high draft pick on the free-agent Cosby.

Maybe they can both make it.

"If it wasn't Shipley, it was going to be somebody else," says Cosby of the annual roster scrum. "I'm confident by being Shipley it definitely added a good player that is going to make the Cincinnati Bengals better. We won a lot of games at Texas together, so we can definitely work that out to do it here, too."

At first blush, it looks like they're competing for the same spot. Slot receiver and punt return. Of course, if Shipley takes on a large role in the passing game, the Bengals won't want him to be a full-time returner. If at all. Besides, his friend had the Bengals' best season in 25 years returning punts in '09 when Cosby finished fifth in the NFL with 11.9 yards per return.

But then, Shipley knows all that because they texted throughout the season and when Cosby surfaced on ESPN, like he did against Green Bay for the two big punt returns, or when the Bengals won, Shipley would text something like "Good win, you guys are rolling."

"If it was my best friend or somebody else, there is always somebody looking to take your job," Cosby says. "It doesn't matter. He'll still be my friend."

While Cosby was catching 92 balls and 10 touchdowns for the Longhorns in '08, Shipley caught 89 for 11. Shipley went on to catch 116 balls this season while conjuring up comparisons to New England's slot superstar Wes Welker.

But Cosby knew all that. He would text on Saturday like Shipley texted on Sunday and it was probably a little more detailed.

"I knew more about the Longhorns than he knew about the Bengals," Cosby says, "so I was keeping up with all my guys."

Both are from Central Texas. Cosby grew up in Mart, about 90 minutes from Brunet, where Shipley played for his father. That track meet? Cosby would go on to win the state 100 and 200 meters.

"I was a senior; I remembered him," says Cosby, born three years to the day before Shipley. "He was the only white guy there and we all knew he was only a freshman. And those were some pretty competitive track meets."

Cosby and Shipley became close at Texas because they played the same position and were at those weekly offensive dinners. Their families became close, and as Cosby says, "We're both Christians." But there are those three years difference. They both like to hunt, but Cosby doesn't have the time on his hands that a college senior does.

"He only has a girlfriend to entertain; I've got a family," says Cosby, who has three children. "He hit me up when he got into town (Saturday), but I had already made dinner plans with my wife or else I would have gone out to dinner with the draft picks."

Cosby won't be here this weekend, either, when Shipley reports for the rookie camp. It will have to wait until May 11, the first on-field session. Cosby knows what he has to do to keep his spot.

"I had a good year returning punts, but it can be better," he says. "Technical things. If I said them, half the people reading this wouldn't understand it. Little things. Seeing the field. Setting up blocks. As far as a receiver, keep working on getting out of routes, getting off the ball and threatening the DB, and continue to catch the ball when it's thrown to me."

This is what they'll see this weekend, he says, when Shipley shows up:

"Very reliable; Good routes," Cosby says. "He's one of those guys that goes out there and knows the game and can play the game. He's definitely one of those guys."

Cosby should definitely know.

"I guess it's a big deal because he's my best friend," Cosby says. "But I'm not going to change my game."

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