May 23, 2009
Thomas Stepp, Texas Media Relations
The last play of Quan Cosby's football career as a Longhorn is one no Texas fan will soon forget.
With less than 30 seconds left in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State with the Longhorns trailing, 21-17 on the Buckeyes' 26-yard line, Cosby caught a quick pass from QB Colt McCoy, raced the remaining 20 yards and dove into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The score gave Texas its third BCS Bowl victory in the last five years.
Fast forward to Saturday in Bass Concert Hall on UT's campus where Cosby covered another 20 yards, this time during the last academic moment of his career as he crossed the stage and picked up his diploma from the School of Social Work.
"I'm the second person in my family to walk across the stage, and my brother, Richard, who also did it will be here today, so it's going to be really exciting for me and my family," Cosby said. "It's a big part of the reason I came back to school."
Cosby had weighed his options for the NFL after his junior season. Already 25 years old at the time, he knew he had unfinished business both on the field and in the classroom and applied lessons he had learned during his professional baseball career to his decision.
"Being out in the professional world is really what encouraged me to come back," Cosby said. "At spring training every year, I'd see guys with that pink slip and they were absolutely devastated, because they had nothing to fall back on. Like me, they'd go out there out of high school, and being there is a great accomplishment, but not in the job world. You have to go out and get more school and take care of that."
That is exactly what Cosby did, reconnecting with head coach Mack Brown who honored the scholarship offer he had made to Cosby four years earlier. What it led to was one of the most productive careers for a wide receiver in UT history.
Cosby joined with McCoy to become UT's all-time leading duo for completions between a QB and a WR with 191. Over his career, he posted 212 receptions (No. 2 on UT's all-time list) for 2,598 yards (No. 3 on UT's all-time list) and 19 TDs (No. 4 on UT's all-time list).
On special teams, he returned 73 kickoffs (No. 1 on UT's all-time list) for 1,731 yards (No. 1 on UT's all-time list), including a 91-yard TD, for a 23.7 ypr average (No. 6 on UT's all-time list) and 33 punts for 372 yards (11.3 ypr) and a TD. In all, he recorded 4,701 all-purpose yards (No. 6 on UT's all-time list) on 318 career plays (14.8 ypp).
However, none of that would have held as much meaning to him without capping it all with his diploma.
"Our academic staff is one of the best in the country, and that trickles down from Coach Brown, because he preaches education," Cosby said. "He understands and he sees every year that guys think they might play in the NFL, but it doesn't always happen like that. He wants to ensure they're good people and are going to be taken care of after football. That is what (graduating) is about."
As it turns out, Cosby is one of the fortunate ones who will have an opportunity to make his NFL dreams come true after signing a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals last month.
He has already started camp in Ohio, but he knows there are never any guarantees for how long an NFL career will last, which makes him that much happier to have his degree in hand.
"It's huge, because like the rest of the world right now, getting a job isn't so easy," Cosby said. "To know that you have one more factor than someone else to ensure that for you and your family is huge. Then, just that sense of accomplishment; it's hard enough to come to school, but to do it as an athlete is extremely hard."
Unlike many other student-athletes, Cosby also had a schedule at home to balance with those who truly come first to him -- his wife, Stasia, and their two young daughters.
"I was really proud of him when I saw him walk across the stage as a father, a husband, a student-athlete," Stasia Cosby said. "I know it's a great accomplishment in his life.
"He's always said he couldn't wait to get his degree."
With a number of family members in attendance on Saturday, the celebration will continue into Sunday as he returns to his hometown of Mart to be with all of the family who could not there, including his grandmother.
"I think I'll be wearing this all weekend because they want to take pictures," Cosby said. "I'm the second person in my family to get a degree, and we're trying to change the norms in my family. They understand it, and they're working to do the same. It's a huge accomplishment and huge deal for my family, and we're all excited."
Now Cosby will have one more ring to add to his collection that includes a National Championship ring and that Fiesta Bowl championship ring -- a T Ring, which he values most of all.
"One of the things we do here is get that T Ring," Cosby said. "It's an honor. I pretty much won't wear my other rings. I love them and I love the work we put in for them, but I put in just as much work, if not more, for that T Ring. That's what I will wear for what it means and what it stands for. Getting a degree at UT, you've definitely accomplished something."