- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It is routine for Cousineau to work out so hard in the weight room that he cannot summon the energy to walk outside to his Jeep. While other athletes require several hours to go through the prescribed exercises on a variety of equipment, Cousineau takes less than an hour. Others talk, Cousineau works; others walk around, Cousineau works. George Hill, the former OSU defensive coordinator who now is an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, says, " Cousineau has done a tremendous job of conditioning his body and his mind so that he is tremendously competitive at a high level of competency. Coach Hayes has often said he's the finest-conditioned athlete he's ever had."
Cousineau started down this road at the age of 10 when he won a trophy by bench-pressing 100 pounds 10 times in a row. When Ohio State athletes once were tested for body fat—a reading of approximately 15% is tolerated—Cousineau had 3.7%, lowest on the team. Steve Bliss, OSU's conditioning coach, says, "He's like a Ferrari, a beautiful machine. But like a Ferrari, there's always room for fine tuning."
Cousineau is fascinated by his own capabilities. He says, "People have the capacity to do so much more than they do. The things they dream about never get done. That's sad. I'm not a masochist, but I enjoy finding out my limits." That may explain why Cousineau once dived 50 feet off a lighthouse into Lake Erie in the dead of winter. "Very cold," he reports. Or why he twice jumped out of a jet boat that was going 70 mph. "I felt like a skipping rock," he says. Or why he jumps his Jeep over curbs. Or why he plans to go down the Colorado River on a raft this summer, paddle a canoe across Lake Erie and take up bull riding and skydiving.
"I don't have a death wish," he insists, "and I don't feel I have anything to prove. But a lot of people never find out what they can do. I understand, of course, that some people might not consider it important to jump out of a jet boat. But I know what I can do. I'm not a fool."
Is there anything he wouldn't try?
"Sure. I've watched people take a bite out of a glass. Now, that's crazy."
What is also crazy, in Cousineau's view, is all the commotion that surrounded him before the draft. NFL scouts were unhappy with Cousineau because he wouldn't run 40 yards for them—until he was ready to be timed. "They insisted I prove I could run," he says. "They'd been seeing me perform for four years." He told them he would run the 40 in 4.7 seconds—"on my terms." The scouts persisted, and several told him, "If you don't run, you won't get drafted," a fairy tale of enormous proportions.
Finally, three weeks before the draft, Cousineau ran. Time: 4.7. "What did I have to hide?" he sniffs. "My movement is my greatest asset." He delayed, he says, because even though the scouts said that "the time wasn't important," Cousineau knew it was. Further, he knew that if he did a 5.2 on a poor day, that would be his NFL time—forevermore and to his everlasting detriment.
Despite his boundless self-confidence, Cousineau didn't believe he would be No. 1 until Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced it in a blaze of lights at the Waldorf-Astoria. His first thought? "That's me." Then Rozelle said, "Congratulations, Tom. This is a great honor, and I'm sure you'll do well. How's Woody?"
Says Cousineau, "When I think about that day, it makes me smile. I'll never forget it, May 5. Wait, May 3. Wait, I've forgotten. Whatever, that was my little space in time that made me feel good. There might be bigger things happen to me in my life—but there might not."