Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Football and family

HighBeam Research

Title: More than a game North Stars' Cozzi doesn't play the sport of his father and brothers, he lives it.(Sports Extra)

Date: September 6, 2002 Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Author: Bush, Joe
Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Dom Cozzi cries because he cares.
"Cares" is inadequate. Cozzi, the St. Charles North tailback, cries because it's the only show of emotion that does justice to how he feels about football.
His tears are as thick as the blood that flowed from his father, Jim, to his brothers, Mike and Tony, and now to him.
Like them, Cozzi's a varsity football player. It's all he's wanted to be, and he's the last of Jim's boys to be one.
Dom Cozzi knows how to appreciate these moments in time.
Last Friday the 6-foot, 200-pounder showed all his skills on one dramatic play. With the North Stars down 6-0 to Fremd, Cozzi bounced off a tackler, spun against the grain, and outsprinted the secondary for an 18-yard touchdown.
Cozzi leaped the final couple of yards to ensure the points. After Kevin Czerwinski made the point-after kick for the 7-6 lead with 3:53 to play, Cozzi ran to the sidelines and, with the home crowd hopping, leaped into his father's arms.
Jim, a defensive end on the undefeated 1969 Oak Park High team, and a longtime high school line coach, is also a North Stars assistant.
"Right after the touchdown I was really trying to get the guys to quit celebrating and let everybody know we're going for one (point), and trying to get everybody together, so I really didn't see everything happening, but you see (the hug) on film," North Stars coach Mark Gould says. "They're very close. Football's a very strong bond."
Minutes later, as Fremd began a drive that reclaimed the lead, Cozzi stood apart on the sidelines, helmet on, bawling. Not tears rolling down a stoic face. Body-shaking sobs.
"Football means a lot to him," Jim Cozzi says.
Jim Jr., Mike and Tony played at Glenbard West, where Jim helped coach Jim Covert guide one of the western suburbs' powers in the 1980s and early '90s.
Dom would sit close to the tunnel underneath the home stands from which the Hilltoppers would emerge before the game and after halftime.
"I always thought that would be the best feeling," he says. "I couldn't wait for my senior year, varsity. It's always what I've been waiting for."
Dom remembers Tony's career the clearest. A linebacker and offensive tackle, Tony was an all-West Suburban Silver Conference performer. When Dom began playing, in seventh grade, he was a linebacker and offensive tackle.
Tony was a 1992 graduate, and Jim stopped coaching at Glenbard West in 1994. It's no coincidence that he's coaching where his youngest son plays.
At St. Charles High, before the split, a freshman coach asked Dom to be a scout-team running back, and that was the end of his days in the trenches.
He also played safety up until the third game of the 2001 season, and he says he doesn't miss defense a bit. Relieved of defensive responsibility, Cozzi ran for 737 yards and 5 TDs, and caught 19 passes for 193 yards.
"I don't think I have the right mindset for defense," he says. "I think I have a different type of intensity."
He's complicated, folks. Cozzi will punish those trying to bring him down but doesn't relish tackling people.
All who have seen him play football attest to his toughness. He likes to relax with a book - favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut - or by writing poems.
He wears No. 41 because Mike, the eldest brother, did, and because it was Brian Piccolo's number. Piccolo was the Chicago Bears running back who died of cancer in 1970.
"He had great heart and never stopped going until the end," Cozzi says.
Mike and Jim Jr. have been able to make it to Dom's games. Of course, so has Jim Sr. All eyes on Dom to make the most of being the last of Jim's sons to play football, to hoist the North Stars to respectability.
"I think he feels some weight on him right now," Gould says. "To finish up the Cozzi name, to put a big exclamation point on it. Sometimes Dom feels like he's got to carry the team a little bit. I know he's feeling some pressure."
During last year's 2-7 season Dom was often the Stars' only weapon, and opponents picked up that scent.
"I don't want to feel like I didn't get yards because I was keyed on," Cozzi says. "I don't feel like I should ever have an excuse. After Fremd last year it was like that every game, and it's gonna be like that this year. There's not much I can do about it. Just gotta keep running."
There's a different football bond among these North Stars who paved the varsity way with bruises and ligament tears and the humiliations of running clocks when behind by 40 points.
Now they're all faster, stronger, smarter, more comfortable and less afraid.
Fremd made the clock run in the North Stars' first varsity game, so when Cozzi's touchdown and Czerwinski's extra point put the North Stars less than four minutes from a thrilling turnaround, many things squeezed Cozzi's throat.
He felt like it was one thing.
"Joy," he says a few days later. "I thought we had 'em. I thought there was no way they were coming back after that. We have this great team, 7-6 right now, and this how it's gonna end.
"It wasn't for any selfish reason. It was just our team, our defense was doing great. It was just a great feeling, something we didn't really have last year."
"It's what I've been waiting for."

COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.

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