His agent, Jimmy Walsh, who also represents Richard Todd and Joe Namath, won't talk contract dollars, but says, "I don't anticipate any problems with Buffalo. There are problems only if something is potentially impossible, and there is no degree of impossibility here." What helps is that Buffalo has a reputation for making fair deals and paying good value. In Cousineau's case, good value may be $1 million for five years.
For his part, Cousineau, who is majoring in marketing/public relations and will graduate this spring on schedule with a 2.9 grade average, smiles a lot when asked what he'll do with the money. "I'm going to make more," he says. "You always hear that money can't buy happiness, but if you put it in the proper perspective, it can put you in a situation to be very happy."
Happiness is a big Cousineau theme. When he and a companion see a man sweeping up some trash in a desolate manner, Cousineau is told that that will be him in three years if he doesn't fly high with the Bills. "It may not be so bad," says Cousineau. "Let's ask him if he's happy."
About the only thing troubling Cousineau these days is the media's continuing interest in a small earring in his left ear and a tattoo on his right calf. "What does either one of these have to do with football?" he says. The short answer is that he wears them both because he wants to. Cousineau's best friend, former OSU Center Doug Porter, explains, "Tom does exactly what he wants to do exactly when he wants to." Of the earring, Cousineau says he wears it because he noticed a country singer wearing one. "The problem is that people are not always ready to accept the fact there's an extra dimension to an athlete," he says, "and I think the difficulty with the earring is the image. Is it wild like a pirate? Is it gay? A rebellion image? For me, it means nothing."
Many Ohio State players have tattoos; Cousineau's is of a shark and the sun. "I wanted to make sure I had a little sunshine in my life every day," he says. Why does he do these things? "I'm just a little bit loose."
Here comes Cousineau now, driving the Renegade down the highway, veering off the road, bouncing along the side in the weeds, back on, off—all the while talking about football. "Americans love football because they like seeing somebody getting knocked on his butt," he says. "A great hit—Wham! Whoooom! They love it. Heck, I love it. It's not vicious. Well, O.K., it can be, I guess. But it's not barbaric. Fans just love to see someone get boned."
And now, late at night in his apartment, he's staring at a parking meter that is on the steps leading upstairs. "It screwed me, so I took it so it wouldn't ever screw anybody else again," he says of the meter. "It seems to me that people say they want more but they settle for less," he goes on. "I won't do that. Not ever. And I'll enjoy myself. More than anything, I like to go out fishing in a place that is so quiet that the only noise you hear is what you make yourself. And one other thing."
"I feel very secure."