As tough as the day was for Cox, it was tougher for his parents, sitting in the Sanford Stadium stands listening to Georgia fans blister their son and write off his chances in what will be the most ogled quarterback battle in Athens since Quincy Carter left minor league baseball.
"You sit in the stands in the spring game and hear things, and it's tough sitting there," said Charles "Buster" Cox, Joe's father. "It was an uncomfortable feeling, but that's part of being a quarterback's parent."
All the Coxes knew it would be this way at Georgia.
It didn't have to be, but this is the way Joe wanted it. Prior to being offered a scholarship by the Bulldogs, Cox committed to Duke, where Charles was a starting safety.
For one thing, at Duke, not many people get riled up enough about the football team to say nasty things about your son within your earshot. For another, the Blue Devils don't have a Joe Tereshinski and a Matthew Stafford and a Blake Barnes also trying to be the starting quarterback.
Last year, Zack Asack started seven games for the Blue Devils as a freshman. Cox and Asack crossed paths at several prep football camps, and Cox if he had gone to Duke, "I would have had the opportunity to start or play a lot last year."
"But that wasn't the best move for me," he said. "I wanted to go to the best place I could possibly go, where I could play the best football and learn from the best coaches. That's why I came here."
His Blue Devil father supported the move entirely.
"I went to Duke because my dad went there and my uncle was an All-American there," Buster Cox said. "That's where I wanted to go. Georgia is where Joe wanted to go. I was thrilled when he committed to Duke, but I was even more thrilled that Georgia offered him because that's where Joe wanted to go."
Buster Cox also gave this word of warning.
"He said when he played at Duke that every year the coaches brought in a guy to try to take his spot," Joe Cox said. "That's just how it is in college. They're going to bring guys in every year at your position. You're not guaranteed anything."
That's even more true at Georgia than at Duke.
"I told him that the only way the college program can stay competitive and good, especially one like Georgia, is they have to recruit the best player every year," Buster Cox said. "Joe was told he would have the opportunity to compete. Which is exactly what has happened so far."
Joe Cox threw for an astounding 4,509 yards, 66 touchdowns and just fiver interceptions as a senior at Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High School, and was named the state's player of the year by Gatorade and the Associated Press. Those same folks who were blasting him in spring of 2006 were drooling over him on Signing Day 2005.
Cox knew that wouldn't last, though.
"When I came here I knew I wasn't promised anything," Joe Cox said. "(Quarterbacks coach Mike) Bobo said, ‘We're going to get a guy next year, too.'"
That guy happened to by Stafford, considered by some, including Georgia head coach Mark Richt, to be the best prep quarterback in the nation last year. Now, Cox has been all but forgotten in a race in which Tereshinski and Stafford have been labeled the favorites.
That's fine with Cox, who already has what he's always wanted, a chance to compete against the very best competition in the country.
"I talked to (Buster Cox) about the whole situation and the possibility that it wouldn't work out this fall," Joe Cox said, "and he said I'm behind you whatever you decide to do, but my whole life I wished I could go to an SEC school. He said, ‘I'm really jealous of the opportunity you have right now. You should be grateful for that, and you need to look at it like you only have one shot to do something like this at that kind of school.'"
Cox feels good about his summer preparation and about his chances in the competition that will begin Aug. 4, the first day of fall practice, he said. If he doesn't win the job, he'll keep waiting for a chance at Georgia, he added.
"I have no desire to go anywhere else," he said. "I'm just as excited as the day I signed to come here. I love being here. If it doesn't work out, I'm not going to pack my bags and go somewhere else. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a chance like this, and I'm going to do what I can to get it."
His parents, too, will still be behind him and behind the Bulldogs.
"We're pulling for our son," Buster Cox said. "We're pulling hard for him to get the opportunity to play, and we hope he wins the starting job. If he doesn't, I'm sure he's given it his best shot, and he will support the quarterback and so will we."
6-foot, 200 pounds
Class: Redshirt freshman
High school resume: Named North Carolina's player of the year by Gatorade, the Associated Press and named national player of the year by Old Spice Red Zone … Rated No. 7 quarterback in the country by ESPN.com… Threw for 8,492 yards and 109 touchdowns while winning two state titles as junior and senior
College resume: Redshirted in 2005 … Named outstanding scout team offensive player in 2005