After playing fullback and defensive tackle at Northeastern for two years, Costa moved on to the University of Utah, where he met and married Lori, the daughter of a Mormon rancher, and majored in offensive tackle, center, linebacker and defensive tackle. He was drafted by both the Rams and Raiders, and after signing with the latter received a memorable peptalk from Al Davis. The coach called Costa into his office, and with jaw jutted and eyes staring resolutely at an imaginary horizon, he announced, "Costa, there's a great Italian player on the other side of the bay."
"Yeah!" shouted Costa, all aquiver. "Leo Nomellini!"
"Correct," said Davis. "I see you as an even greater Italian player."
"Wow!" said Costa.
"Furthermore," Davis went on, increasingly orotund, "you are going to be so great they'll have to build another bridge to handle the crowds that come to see you play."
"Oh, boy!" said Costa, who was so fired up he went out and became runner-up to Billy Joe as AFL Rookie of the Year. Before the next season Costa, who had signed for $12,000, went to see Davis about a raise. Davis offered him a $500 increase. "Gee, Coach," said Costa, "are you saving the money to build the bridge?"
Costa was traded to Buffalo in 1966 and to Denver in 1967, and three years later the All Stars were born. Lori became general manager by default. "When I tried booking games," Costa says, "all the guy on the other end of the phone wanted to do was to talk football."
Costa takes his coaching duties lightly. So do his teammates. "We play a zone," he says, "and if the other guys start shooting well from outside we play man-to-man. We run a lot because we've got to get into condition."
Recently the All Stars beat Kansas City 80-73 at Denver, but the score was of considerably less interest than the players. Warren McVea was a quick, breakaway scorer for the Chiefs, pouring in 24 points, which is perhaps to be expected of a speedy running back, but by contrast All-AFL Defensive Tackle Buck Buchanan, the tallest man on the court at 6'7", was useless, even as a rebounder. He served more as an auxiliary backboard, the ball caroming off his elbows and shoulders.
Costa inserted himself into the game sporadically. For a 250-pounder, he was very quick, but he soon proved himself a master of the Nabokovian nonplay, slickly coming downcourt with the ball, circling around Chief defenders and then deftly passing to no one, not even a Chief, the ball soaring splendidly out of bounds. In one rousing spree, the Broncos and the Chiefs traded the ball four times in lightning-fast action replete with unbelievable steals and dazzling interceptions—but nobody came close to scoring a basket.