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Five Words: Father’s Lesson Inspires Kirk Cousins

Posted Mar 14, 2015

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins grew up learning about how to be tested mentally in several sports, in large part due to one lesson his father passed on to him.

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins grew up learning about how to be tested mentally in several sports, in large part due to one lesson his father passed on to him.

On an elementary school playground in the Chicago suburbs, Kirk Cousins hurled a baseball to his first-grade buddies.

The hollow echo from the ball whizzing into the thick of the leather glove was not piercing because Cousins put only enough “oomph” on the throw to get it there accurately.

And when Cousins approached the mound as a high-schooler at Holland (Mich.) Christian High School – his family relocated to Western Michigan in seventh grade – it’s like nothing changed.

Whether he was the third or second baseman, shortstop or pitcher, he didn’t throw “gas.” But, it lit a fire under Cousins, who was an all-conference athlete in three sports at the school (basketball, football and baseball).

“I didn’t throw it hard,” Cousins said. “I threw it hard enough to be a decent high school player. But I wasn’t going to play anywhere big in college.”

So he thought.

Cousins not only tossed a baseball to his buddies, but also lobbed – again, with just enough power – the pigskin back and forward on the playground. The feeling was unparalleled. To him, throwing the football was natural, and gave him the enjoyment every kid wants when the recess bell rings. Passion was burning in the pit of Cousins.

“For some reason it resonated with me,” Cousins said. “It was fun. I love the competition. I enjoy throwing the football.”

‘You reap what you sow’
Cousins, before his high school days, played little league baseball. His dad, Don Cousins, was his coach.

Kirk Cousins smiled. He remembered whatever team his dad coached, it would end up being a winning team. But, Cousins valued his dad’s advice as a father more than a coach; Don was a father to Kirk before he was a coach.

“He was certainly a big influence in terms of my involvement in athletics…” Cousins said. “…and who I am as a person.”

Cousins, who was brought-up in a religious household, lives on his father’s words, an excerpt from the Galatians in the New Testament of the Bible. Don kept telling his son “you reap what you sow,” or with every decision – good or bad – comes a consequence.

“It seems kind of simple and self-explanatory,” Cousins said. “But when you’re really little, it kind of reinforces the understanding of consequences or choices you make.”

Cousins saw neither a baseball nor a basketball career past high school. But since his flag football days in fourth and fifth grade, it was different. When he started playing tackle football in sixth grade, it was different. His high school days: different.

This was a sport he applied the Galatians verse to because Cousins has not boasted about his athletic ability or much of anything else. Instead, he understands – like his dad drilled into his head – that as a quarterback he needs to make good decisions.

“I mean you can check my combine numbers in Google,” said Cousins, who said it was easier compete at a high level in small town Michigan. “It’s nothing impressive. What was funny is that he taught that [quote] to me, my brother and my sister just thinking about life in general, but as a quarterback that is very applicable.”

Cousins said football is a game that tests him mentally. There were athletes in his high school who were adept in baseball and basketball, but on the gridiron, they could not “hang.” The sport of football separated the men from the boys in his eyes.

With what his dad taught him, Cousins knew he could compete – even on a bigger stage.

“It’s no two-hand touch anymore,” Cousins said. “Between enjoyment and the fact that I could potentially get a college scholarship, that’s what I pursued.”

From college to the pros
Cousins hurled a Hail Mary in the air at Michigan State – a successful one at that.

No. 16 Michigan State was the underdog to No. 6 Wisconsin. It is arguable that through Cousins life, it has been the same deal. But, when Wisconsin’s head coach stared blankly in the direction of the Spartans rushing the field after the upset, Cousins was smiling ear-to-ear.

He finished his collegiate career as the all-time record holder in passing touchdowns (66), passing yards (9,131), completions (723), passing efficiency (146.1 rating), total offense (9,004 yards) and 200-yard passing games (26).

And as for the NFL, it is but another test to conquer. For what this “man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Cousins – who in 2015 begins his fourth year in the league with the Redskins – continues to live by those words, whether he’s on the field, on the sideline, in the meeting room or out and about with his wife, Julie.

“I am focused on getting better. We all know I have a long ways to go, I have a lot of work to do,” he said recently. “…I’m excited to get back to work because I do think that with another offseason in [Jay Gruden’s] system, with more time to develop and talk about the system and improve and get practice reps that I can really take another step forward, but that step forward needs to happen – and if it does, I do like where I’m headed.”

RELATED LINKS:
-- Kirk Cousins Wants To Come Back At A ‘High Level’
-- Paul Has Story Time With Students

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