- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dick Cosgrove’s metamorphosis took only two weeks.

At the beginning of August, Cosgrove was just another college student. Then preseason drills started for Georgetown’s football team, and the unknown walk-on began his transformation. Fourteen days later, the 6-foot-4, 216-pound sophomore was the team’s unlikely starting wide receiver.

At La Salle College High School in Philadelphia, Cosgrove had wanted to play college ball. A physical receiver with good hands and better grades, he seemed a perfect fit for a small college or Ivy League program. But halfway through his senior season, Cosgrove tore a ligament in his index finger that sidelined him for three games and made him all but invisible to college recruiters.

“Rick had a good understanding of what we were doing on the field,” said Brett Gordon, who worked with Cosgrove as La Salle’s offensive coordinator. “He had good size. Unfortunately, we only saw glimpses of what he was capable of his senior year.”

The following March, while Cosgrove was deciding between Georgetown and Penn, he became bedridden with a bad case of the flu.

“One night I was up all night sick, and the next morning I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I blacked out in the hallway,” Cosgrove recalled. “I passed out and hit the bathroom floor hard.”

When he came to, Cosgrove was in the hospital, in interminable pain, unable to open his mouth to ask why or how. His jaw was shattered, dislocated on both sides, and had been wired shut. Cosgrove spent the next month sipping his meals through a straw, wondering whether he would ever play football again.

“I was still deciding at that point whether or not I wanted to,” Cosgrove said. “But I lost 15 pounds, so that kind of screwed things up for me a little bit.”

He came to Georgetown the following fall and spent his first semester putting on weight, working out at the student rec center and keeping a close eye on football from his nearby freshman dorm. Around Christmas, he approached the Hoyas’ football staff.

“I went in and was like, ‘I really want to play football,’ ” he recalled. “They took down all my info and interviewed me, but from there it moved really slowly.”

Because of NCAA regulations, a team can only allow a certain number of prospects to try out. Cosgrove added his name to the list — and began his long wait. By the time spring started, the coach who had interviewed Cosgrove had left the program. Cosgrove waited. At the end of finals, wide receivers coach KiJuan Ware told him that a spot might open up during the summer.

Cosgrove packed up his stuff, moved home to Philadelphia and waited some more through May, June and into July. A week and a half before the start of twoadays, Cosgrove was on vacation with his family in Sea Island, N.J., when the phone rang.

“I was eating breakfast, about to go out to the beach, and Coach Ware called and said I could come try out,” Cosgrove said. “I was really excited, I wanted the opportunity for so long, and I got it.”

He came to camp as an unknown — most teammates assumed he was a freshman — and having not run a route, caught a ball, or worn a helmet in more than a year. He was given jersey No. 96 — and an opportunity.

“When they walk through the door, we tell them that the best players will play, regardless of whether they are walk-ons, recruits, seniors or freshmen,” head coach Kevin Kelly said. “Some take it to heart, some don’t.”

Count Cosgrove among the former. Despite having never played football in the area’s withering August humidity, he snagged spirals and soaked up X’s and O’s like a sponge.

“He was a surprise,” Kelly said. “Every day he kept moving up, kept blocking, hustling, making plays. By the time that first game rolled around, he was the best guy.”

During a team meeting two days before the Hoyas’ season opener against Stony Brook Ware announced that Cosgrove, the second-week wonder, would be starting opposite senior Brent Craft, the team’s leading returning receiver. It’s a wonder Craft and his teammates didn’t ask, “Who?”

“I was thrilled, my heart was beating so fast at that point,” Cosgrove recalled. “I called my parents, and they were ecstatic. They never thought I would get the chance to start so early, [so] they were really surprised.”

Forty-eight hours later, his parents were in Long Island, watching their son — now wearing No. 27 — trot onto a football field for the first time since Thanksgiving 2005. Though his team fell 35-28, Cosgrove played error-free football, no small feat for a player who two weeks before hadn’t seen a page of the Hoyas’ thick playbook, although he did not catch a pass.

In the second game against Lafayette, Cosgrove, this time wearing No. 89, caught two balls for 14 yards in a 28-7 loss. Last week in a 28-14 loss to Yale, he started and grabbed two more for 28 yards. The Hoyas play at Holy Cross today.

“I think it’s awesome,” Craft said of his new teammate’s tale. “A lot of kids would be like, ‘Man, they don’t want me, I’m not going to be able to do anything, this is a waste of my time.’ Rick didn’t. He fought through it.”

Cosgrove is amazed, too, at his rapid climb.

“I was just a normal student when I decided to come here,” he said. “Football was always in the back of my mind, but basically I came out of nowhere. It’s a pretty incredible story.”

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