Old School OSU—The Only 1st Overall Draft Choice Ever To Walk Away From The NFL

Old School OSU—The Only 1st Overall Draft Choice Ever To Walk Away From The NFL
Tom Cousineau

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

            In a 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!

All American

            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 Kelly.


            Tom played 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 Akron 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 edits http://fryingpanpolitics.blog.com

Tags: Buckeyes Football NFL Ohio State

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Ohio State 2018 Football Schedule

Jan 1st Rose Bowl v Washington
ESPN 5:00pm ET

Sep. 1 Oregon State Beavers
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH Noon ET

Sep. 8 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH 3:30pm ET

Sep. 15 at TCU Horned Frogs
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

Sep. 22 Tulane Green Wave
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH

Sep. 29 at Penn State Nittany Lions
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA

Oct. 6 Indiana Hoosiers (HC)
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH 3:30/4pm ET

Oct. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH

Oct. 20 at Purdue Boilermakers
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN

Nov. 3 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH Time 12:00pm

Nov. 10 at Michigan State Spartans
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI Time TBA

Nov. 17 at Maryland Terrapins
Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD Time TBA

Nov. 24 Michigan Wolverines
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH Noon ET

Dec. 1 Big Ten Championship Game
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN 8:00pm ET