Former Arundel star Billy Cosh hopes fourth time is the charm

Record-breaking quarterback settling in at Houston after stints at Kansas State, James Madison, Butler (Kan.) Community College

August 24, 2013|By Seth Boster | The Baltimore Sun

It's more of a faraway vision to Billy Cosh now: at the end of a country road, Arundel's football field, the quarterback's canvas under the hazy white glow of a Friday night. That was where the state of Maryland's all-time leading passer painted his legacy and where possibilities seemed as limitless as the magic from his right arm.

"I miss it, you know?" said the 21-year-old Cosh, a 2009 Arundel graduate now on scholarship at the University of Houston with two years of eligibility remaining.

It is his fourth college in as many years.

"At Arundel, we'd throw it every time," he said. "That's why I came to Houston. I wanted to get back to those roots."

When Chuck Markiewicz gave the hand of his offense to Cosh as a junior, the marriage was bliss. The quarterback met the playbook that brought him unbridled happiness, and that's because the playbook allowed him to pass an unlimited number of times.

In two years as a starter, Cosh passed for 7,433 yards and 112 touchdowns, state career records. He finished with a 22-3 record.

"Billy was the most accurate quarterback we've ever had," Markiewicz said. "He could make any throw."

He was the incoming shaggy-haired freshman who appeared at practice one summer day, the new kid from Kansas, where his father, Chris Cosh, coached linebackers at Kansas State in 2004 and 2005. Maryland was the seventh state Billy moved to as the son of a journeyman college football coach who was Maryland's linebackers coach and defensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008.

Billy Cosh learned the game by going to practices with his father coaching at South Carolina and by watching with eager curiosity. In Kansas, Billy began playing as a 13-year-old in a middle school 8-on-8 league.

"I don't think anybody knew about this new kid, the Kansas country boy," recalls R.J. Harris, who would go on to catch 2,618 yards and 48 scores from Cosh and become his best friend.

Harris, now entering his junior year at New Hampshire, had plans of showing himself as the school's future signal-caller that summer.

"But I saw him throwing and that's when I knew," he said, laughing. "Yeah, I wasn't playing quarterback."

Cosh's production was the output of his obsession. In the summer, Harris and others had their phones rattling with Cosh's beckons to go work on routes. Cosh couldn't sit for Arundel's hourlong lunch periods, and so he'd gather his receivers to go throw, or he'd go to the football offices to watch film.

"He's almost to the point where he's an oddball," Markiewicz said. "He's peculiar because that's all he'd want to do."

Said Harris: "He was nerdy. He wasn't a nerd, but people knew if you talked to Billy, football was coming up in the conversation. … He was like the football guru."

As a boy in South Carolina, his parents would find him alone in the backyard, breaking down invisible huddles and targeting trees as his receivers.

"He's always had one passion," Chris Cosh said. "He loves football."

At Arundel, Cosh found the game to be a set of X's and O's, surmountable like mathematic equations. The game was team dinners on Thursday nights with all his friends, the taste of victory 24 hours later. Passes and celebrations. Records and glory. Simple.

"Basically, you go in there and Coach [Markiewicz] gives you the football and tells you to go throw it around, have some fun," Cosh said. "It was a great feeling."

And then the game changed.

College struggles

At team sessions his redshirt freshman year at Kansas State, Cosh would look to Collin Klein, a redshirt sophomore at the time who initially hosted Cosh on his official visit.

"Every little thing, he'd write it down. Coach said it, he'd write it down, everything," Cosh said. "I got to see that and I always thought, 'Why is he doing that?' As a young kid, 18, I didn't know anything."

Cosh had picked Kansas State, he said, partly because his dad was Bill Snyder's defensive coordinator at the time. He says he "felt comfortable in a sense."

He'd see Klein, the future Heisman Trophy candidate, race with receivers in sprints. He'd see how upperclassmen powered through the weight room. This was what big-time football looked like, and this was what Cosh had always aspired to since being a boy who plastered his bedroom with posters of his dream schools that ran high-octane offenses.

"I'll be honest, I got humbled at K-State," he said. "You went from being that top dog and then you go to K-State, a big-time program. Everybody's good."

In January 2011, he came home one night to meet James Madison coach Mickey Mathews visiting at his house.

"He was just telling me it would be a good deal," Cosh said. "You know, what any recruiter would tell you. That's how the game goes."

The visit, Cosh said, was enough to fill him with a bright sense of opportunity at JMU.

"I made a rash decision," Cosh says now. "And I regret that. It's my fault."

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