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ROSE BOWL | USC VS. TEXAS

The Cosby Show Is Back in L.A.

Texas receiver struggled in the Angels' minor league system, so he quit and returned to football, a move that he doesn't regret.

January 04, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Quan Cosby arrived in Los Angeles last week, a destination he had in mind when he graduated from high school in 2001.

Then, however, he figured he'd be carrying a baseball bat and glove into Angel Stadium, rather than a football helmet and shoulder pads into the Rose Bowl.

Cosby, a freshman wide receiver for the Longhorns, was a sixth-round draft pick by the Angels. He spent 3 1/2 years as an outfielder in their minor league system before a lack of progress led to a change of plans.

He negotiated a release from his contract, then contacted officials at Texas who had recruited him as a football player at Mart High School -- Mart is just east of Waco -- and promised that his football scholarship would be waiting for him, should baseball not work out.

He has played in all 12 games for the Longhorns this season, worked his way into a starting role the last two games and says he has found inner peace with his decision to play football.

"I just don't believe in doing anything if your heart isn't there, and that's basically what it came down to," Cosby said.

"I wanted to catch footballs and throw the football around more than I wanted to go take [batting practice], and everybody loves to take BP. That's when I knew."

He batted .260 in 340 games spread over parts of four seasons. His best season was 2002, when he batted .302 and stole 22 bases for Provo in the Rookie League.

After advancing to Class-A Cedar Rapids, he batted .249 in 2003 and again in 2004. Even though he had 24 stolen bases and led the Midwestern League with 12 triples, his .305 on-base percentage and 85 strikeouts that season meant he probably wouldn't have advanced to double A.

After intense soul searching and a visit with his high school football coach, Cosby reported to spring training this year, then left after less than a month.

"The single-A to double-A jump is a significant jump," said Tony Reagins, the Angels' minor league director. "He had some tools that could play at the major league level [speed and defense], but he was still learning the game. He had a window of opportunity to make that decision, and you can't fault him for that."

Of baseball, Cosby said, "I'm done. ... I gave it a good shot and now it's done, I'm moving on."

A two-time all-state selection as a quarterback and defensive back in high school, he also won the 2-A state 100 meters and 200 meters in track. He had scholarship offers for football and baseball. Some schools, including Texas, would have allowed him to play both.

But the lure of playing a sport professionally was too much to pass up, and so was the $850,000 signing bonus the Angels offered.

"There are so many guys in the world who would jump on that, so I definitely had to do it," he said. "I wouldn't trade my decision for the world. But eventually, the truth came out. I believe I have a lot more passion for football than baseball."

He was raw when he arrived at Texas' summer practice -- "When I was playing baseball, I didn't touch a football," he said -- and it took a while for his skills to return.

Through the first eight games, he had three catches for 25 yards and no touchdowns. In the next four, he had 10 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns.

In the Big 12 championship game against Colorado, he had a career-best four receptions. His speed and elusiveness have always been a factor, but he's beginning to develop other intangibles that receivers need.

"He has real good eye-hand coordination and real strong hands," Texas receiver coach Bobby Kennedy said. "He just snatches balls out of the air.... He's really a natural catcher."

At 5 feet 11, 200 pounds, he doesn't have a typical receiver's build, but he makes up for that with field smarts, Kennedy said. Plus, after spending four years in baseball, he is a 23-year-old freshman and that maturity goes a long way.

"I think he can process things a little bit better," Kennedy said. "Just being older and having his experiences gives him a much different perspective than a kid just out of high school."

Even so, Cosby, who also occasionally returns punts and kickoffs, said he had surprised himself by developing into a significant contributor on a team that is playing for a national title.

"Being on the No. 2 team in the nation, I really had no expectations," he said.

But he fit in and he said he knew right away that the football atmosphere suited him much better than baseball.

"I'm such a people person," he said. "I like the atmosphere a lot more than an individual. In baseball, even if your team loses, the guy who went three for four isn't in the same mood as the losing pitcher. In football, everyone is in the same mood, win or lose. I like that better."

Kennedy said if Cosby continued to develop, he'd have a shot at playing pro football.

That would be fine with Cosby, who lists two-sport standout Deion Sanders as his sports hero.

"Sure," Cosby said with a wide grin. "If [pro football] ever came into play, I would love to do that."

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