Old School OSU—The Only 1st Overall Draft
Choice Ever To Walk Away From The NFL
Tom Cousineau played high school football at St.
Edward High School
in Lakewood, Ohio and as a senior was the top ranked
linebacker prospect in the nation. He
chose OSU for his college career and it turned out to be the perfect
choice. In the first week of 2 a day
practices, Cousineau wasn't so sure. He
called his Dad, Tom Sr., to question his choice of schools. But to the benefit of both OSU and the player
himself, he stayed.
By Bill Smith
preseason practice, Tom showed everyone he belonged. He noticed the way that All American fullback
Pete Johnson lined up and left his stance.
Johnson got the ball and Cousineau in his stomach at almost the same
instant. Cousineau pancaked Johnson for a loss.
That was not something that happened often. In Johnson's entire college career, he had
very few if any losses on runs. Coach
Hayes went off. He demanded that the
offense run the same play again and this time get it right. The next play Cousineau saw the same thing
and attacked the run. He pancaked
Johnson again and proved that he belonged at OSU!
At OSU he
was named to the All American teams as both a junior and senior. In 1978 he broke the record for single season
tackles with 211 as well as the single game tackle record with 29. He was the MVP of both the Orange Bowl and
the all star Hula Bowl game. He is still
the second leading tackler in OSU history with 569 total tackles despite
playing in fewer games per season than we play now. The Buffalo Bills chose Cousineau with the
first overall choice in the 1979 draft.
Initially, Cousineau was
looking forward to playing in Buffalo. It was only 100 miles from his parents in Cleveland and the team
had a very good coach in Chuck Knox.
According to a statement Cousineau made later “My relationship with the
Bills got off into the weeds, and it happened almost immediately.” First, the Bills screwed up the travel of
Cousineau and his agent from the draft in New York
to Buffalo for
a press conference on the day of the draft.
There was not a seat for the agent on a sold out flight. The two eventually made it to Buffalo and were told
that the Bill's owner Ralph Wilson and general manager Stew Barber were going
to take them to dinner that night. Not
only did the team representatives never show up at the hotel, they never
bothered to call. In addition, Tom had
spoken with a couple of Bills players and found out that they were not treated
well by the GM Barber.
The Bills were famous for being
cheap. The offer they made to his agent
was disrespectful. He has always been a
man of principle. The CFL was very
interested in him and his agent had a firm offer that evening. The CFL was in desperate need of a spark to
bring them to the attention of the sporting world in North
America. Tom Cousineau was
exactly the kind of spark it needed. The
Montreal Alouettes, the flagship franchise of the CFL, offered double the money
that the Bills originally offered. Tom told the Bills that if the team could even
come close to the CFL offer, he would stay.
They did not and he walked away from the Bills and the NFL. Cousineau became the only first overall
choice in the post-merger era to sign with the CFL.
Cousineau became an instant star in the
CFL. He was named the MVP of the Grey
Cup CFL Championship game in his rookie year of 1979. In 1982 several NFL teams tried to sign
him. He did sign a deal with the Houston
Oilers but the Bills still owned his rights and matched the offer. He and his agent forced a trade to his home
town team—the Cleveland
Browns. The Browns gave the Bills their
first choice in the 1983 draft which ended up becoming Hall of Fame QB Jim
4 seasons with the Browns and two more with the 49'ers. He retired from football at the end of the
1987 season. He went on to a successful
business career and ran for Congress in 2006 as a Republican candidate from the
area. He won the primary easily but was
caught up in the off year flood that gave Democrats control of both houses of
Congress. He lost the general
election. He continues to be active in
both business and politics. It would not
be surprising to see him run for office again.
Bill Smith is a
former coach of several semi-pro teams and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for http://BrutusReport.com. He has
also published several novels on http://ebooks-library.com/index.cfm and