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"One thing about Tom is that he's always been willing to pay the price," says his father. "In high school people said he wasn't fast enough, so after his junior year he spent hours every day sprinting and practicing starts. That one summer he brought his 40-yard time down from 5.0 to 4.7, just from working at it. At times it even worried me—how dedicated he was.
"When he was little, I had a very accurate growth chart that predicted he'd be 6'3", 195 pounds. He's 6'3", but that extra 35 pounds is from work."
Actually, Cousineau weighs several pounds less than 230. Because of his muscle definition people always guess that he's bigger than he is. When he weighed in for the first time after signing with the Browns, he tipped the scales at a mere 222 pounds. "Ha, ha!" Cousineau cried. "It's too late now."
On July 30 Cousineau arrived at the Browns' training camp in his 1975 white Sting Ray convertible, top down. Bronzed, sleek, clad in khaki shorts, undershirt, sunglasses and neck bandana, he looked like a Hollywood muscleman in search of the Tarzan tryouts. He found work soon enough.
On the runback of his interception in the Lions' scrimmage on Aug. 7, he was flattened and dazed by 260-pound Tackle Keith Dorney. The following Monday he was carted off the practice field with his lower right leg encased in ice. Sprained right ankle. During practice two days later he was speared in a pileup. Four stitches in his chin.
But in Cousineau's first NFL game, on Aug. 14 at the Silverdome against Detroit, he avoided injury if not more blows. Notably, he was steamrolled on a first-half screen pass and chopped down on a third-quarter reverse—by Quarterback Danielson, no less. He did make some stellar plays, however, including a critical third-and-one sideline stop of Running Back Horace King. And after the game Rutigliano was smiling. "Yes, Cousineau's still worth the money," he said. "I had to sell my house and give up two of my kids, but he's worth it."
Cousineau himself was reflective. "I'm not really sure of my assignments yet, and that's frustrating. But it will come. It won't be a lark, but I think I can excel in this league." Then he asked, "Who blocked me on that screen? A tackle? Man, that was some play. Who blocked me on that reverse? No! A quarterback?" Cousineau hung his head. "Thanks," he said, "you've ruined my day."
A moment later he looked up, smiling shyly. Life, obviously, would go on. "You know something," he said. "I'm happy, glad, proud, thrilled, you name it, to be in the NFL." Don't forget rich.