Gorman: What a year for Central Catholic's Cosentino
Only seven months ago, J.J. Cosentino wasn't sure what his football future held.
He was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and wondering whether he would be eligible to play his junior season after transferring from Kiski Area to Central Catholic.
This weekend, Cosentino is visiting Florida State as a guest with a scholarship offer to play quarterback for the Seminoles.
Pardon him for feeling like he has gone from Purgatory to St. Peter's pearly gates.
“It's awesome,” Cosentino said by phone Friday from Tallahassee, Fla. “It was a little bit scary in the summer when I didn't know if I was going to play or not. Everything is coming together. It's all coming true. It's more motivation to work hard.”
Central Catholic has a long history of successful signal callers, and any conversation about Vikings quarterbacks tends to start with former Pitt great Dan Marino, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and end with former West Virginia star Marc Bulger, a Pro Bowl MVP.
But it stretches back to at least the star of the great 1951 team, Don Schaefer, who played at Notre Dame, as well as Bulger's father, Jim, who also played for the Fighting Irish.
There was Eddie Smith, who played at Michigan State (and whose brother, Danny, played at Edinboro and was recently hired as the Steelers' special teams coach). After Marino was the late Joe Felitsky, who also played at Pitt.
That's just the Division I quarterbacks off the top of Central coach Terry Totten's head.
“They're all up on the wall here somewhere,” Totten said from his football office, where the hallways are lined with framed photographs. “We're pretty proud of it.”
Central has produced a succession of Division I quarterback recruits in the past decade, from Bobby Tudi (Air Force) to Shane Murray (Pitt) and Tino Sunseri (Pitt) to Perry Hills (Maryland).
Next in line is Cosentino.
“That's what everyone says, that you can come from a QB-rich high school with Marino and Bulger and Tino and Perry and all those guys,” Cosentino said. “They respect you and the coaches because of the guys that came through. They know what it takes to be a good quarterback to come out of Central.”
That's what caused the WPIAL to declare Cosentino ineligible last May, ruling that his transfer was athletically motivated. It was overturned on appeal by the PIAA.
It would have been a shame if a player who promises to be one of the most sought-after in Western Pennsylvania from the Class of 2014 would have missed his junior season.
The strange part is, playing for the Vikings did little to improve his recruitment.
Sure, it doesn't hurt that Florida State's lead recruiter is defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, a Central Catholic graduate and Tino's father. He was recruiting Cosentino while at Tennessee. Upon joining Florida State's staff, Sunseri showed Cosentino's tape to Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, who pulled the trigger two weeks ago.
That Cosentino has early offers from Akron and Florida State is something of a surprise, considering he didn't start until Week 3 and then completed only 43 of 98 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns last fall.
But he is 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and can make all of the required throws, especially the deep ball.
“It comes down to the type of throws you show on film,” ESPN.com recruiting analyst Jared Shanker said this week on TribLive Radio. “If those 43 completions are all solid throws, colleges aren't going to be hesitant to offer.”
The first play of Cosentino's highlight tape shows him tossing a 75-yard scoring pass to Shafer Swann — son of Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn — in the finale at Butler.
“He's a big, strong kid who can spin it,” Totten said. “Some things you can't coach.”
And some stories seem too good to be true.
Cosentino is concentrating on making the most of his opportunity, thankful that he was able to play football last season after missing the majority of his sophomore season with the knee injury and almost sitting out last fall, too.
He knows now that it's not about statistics. It's about making the most of your chances, especially second chances.
“We're just not the type of team that passes the ball 40 or 50 times a game,” Cosentino said. “I did what I was asked and made the best of it. My numbers weren't amazing, but everything worked out in the end.”