Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Column: Fearless signal-caller can hoop, too


Walking on the right side of a fine line that divides running for big gains from unnecessarily exposing himself to injury is one of many aspects of his game sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart will seek to improve. The same is true for risking interception vs. throwing the ball away. He erred on the side of caution in both areas last season.

Many consider fear, not failure, to be the opposite of success. At the same time, it doesn’t pay to be reckless.

Cozart showed fearlessness in his session with the media Monday afternoon before heading out to the practice field. He was not afraid to take on the basketball team, around which Lawrence revolves in so many ways.

Cozart didn’t say anything that could revive the ill will that existed between the basketball and football teams a few years back. His words were all in good fun, but he did want to let everyone know he can hoop.

“I know I’m not supposed to say this,” Cozart started, uttering a reporter’s favorite phrase, “but one time we were at the rec (center), and the football players played the basketball players, and we actually beat them.”

Cozart said he, former tight end Charles Brooks, wide receivers Nick Harwell and Tony Pierson and basketball walk-on Christian Garrett took on Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason, Jamari Traylor, Joel Embiid and one other player whose identity he could not recall.

“We went to 15 and beat them 15-12,” Cozart said. “It was a good game. It went back and forth. It was real competitive, actually.”

And from Cozart’s vantage point, more calls went the way of the basketball players.

“Naadir, he’s one of those guys who likes to call a lot of fouls, even when there wasn’t a foul,” Cozart said. “So it was real fun. They had more possessions than they should have had because they were calling fouls for no reason.”

Someone must have gotten hot for the football players to pull off the upset.

“It was definitely me,” Cozart said. “Me, Tony, Chuck (Brooks, a former junior-college basketball player). Chuck was giving it to Jo Jo down low. It was us three guys. I just feel like we had the handle on them because of speed, and then we’re more physical. That’s kind of where we beat them up.”

Could it be Bill Self playing the wrong guys?

“I know,” Cozart said. “He needs to come over here and get a few of us.”

For that small percentage of KU basketball fans who can’t bring themselves to see anything humorous about the team around which their lives revolve, Cozart was joking about Self needing to recruit football players. Repeat: He was joking. Let the swelling on those veins subside. But Cozart was dead serious when he talked about the KU basketball player who could help the football team the most.

Jamari Traylor? No, he wouldn’t be Cozart’s first selection, although it would be interesting to see what he could do as a defensive end or tight end.

“I’d take Frank,” Cozart said.

As a defensive back?

“I’d put him in the backfield with me,” Cozart said. “I’d put him right back there with me. Like coach Self said, he’s got that bulldog type of mentality. I feel like he’s just one of those guys who’s going to go out there put it all out on the line with no worries. I wouldn’t mind him at defensive back, either. He’s quick, he’s fast, and he’s physical as well.”

Cozart, who played basketball at Bishop Miege High before and after taking up football as a sophomore, has a good eye for football talent. A West Virginia assistant football coach, envisioning a shut-down cornerback, offered Mason a scholarship after watching him in one basketball practice.

Cozart said he didn’t have any plans to approach Self about turning Mason into a two-sport standout.

“I don’t know,” he said. “He probably wouldn’t like that. He’s counting on Frank to be the starter, so I don’t think he would like that.”

No, he wouldn’t like that, but Self would like to see Cozart have a big sophomore season at quarterback. The basketball coach is as big a football fan as the considerably slimmed-down football coach, Charlie Weis, is a basketball fan.

Plus, the better the football team performs, the more appealing Kansas is as a conference member, in the event of another reshuffling next decade.


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