Mar 15, 2012

Former Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins' intangibles will suit him well in the NFL

Photo: Associated Press

By Adam Biggers

Kirk Cousins' polished attitude and way of interviewing was always something I admired. Oftentimes, the former Michigan State Spartans quarterback spoke like a coach or other authoritative figure, sounding less and less like a "college kid" at each turn.

Now, Cousins—who is Michigan State's career-leader in wins, touchdowns, and just about every other quarterback-related category at the school—is looking to take his maturity to the next level. Of course, he's more mentally mature by virtue of aging. His game has also matured, especially during the past two seasons, when he led the Spartans to back-to-back 10-win seasons and a 2012 Outback Bowl win over Georgia.
ESPN's Mel Kiper has Cousins as the No. 6 rated quarterback on his famous "big board." Considering that many felt Cousins was overrated, or just plain lucky, in college, hovering outside the top five isn't all that bad for the Holland, Mich. native. He'll likely be taken in April's NFL Draft.

While he accomplished just about everything within his reach during his tenure at Michigan State, pro scouts look to find flaws, Cousins said Wednesday after participating in Michigan State's Pro Day at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

As he has in the past, Cousins shrugged the criticism. He chooses to look at the bright side, rather than focus on what he didn't do, or could have done better, in college.
Cousins has the task of proving why he should be drafted. But the scouts are looking for reasons to stay away.

"It's really a process of devaluation, rather than evaluation," Cousins told Spartans writer Graham Couch. "They're trying to find what's wrong with you. They're try to see why they shouldn't draft you. So they're not going to focus on the positives.

"They're not going to focus on that I was the winningest quarterback in school history. They're not going to focus on that we won 11 games in back-to-back years. They're going to focus on the games we lost and why we lost them and whatever you accomplish, they're going to tell you what you didn't do."

Cousins was never one to make excuses. After an embarrassing 37-6 road loss to Iowa in 2010, Cousins didn't point the finger at others. He accepted his shortcomings and promised to bounce back. He never called out a teammate or deflected responsibility. He was the captain, and he took his job seriously.

So instead of hiding behind mistakes, Cousins says he brought them to the forefront. NFL scouts want to see that, he says.

"You can't be defensive, you have to take ownership (of mistakes)," Cousins said. "At the end of the day, these guys know football well enough to know that sometimes it wasn't always your fault. But they want to see you take ownership.

"That can wear on you. But it's part of the process and we understand that going into it. But certainly draft day will be a welcomed relief in the sense that, that work is all done and I'll be able to go to a team and show them what I can do and what I'm capable of."

Because of his uncanny leadership, genuine likability, along with his desire to compete and reach the highest level possible, Cousins will likely be drafted and make an NFL roster. Teams will probably end up looking past Cousins' flaws and focus on his attitude.

He's not the most athletic quarterback in the draft. He's not the prototype teams salivated over like former Stanford Cardinal star Andrew Luck. But Cousins has the will that can't be coached. His best attributes, possibly, aren't physical—they're mental. Cousins' character and desire to compete will suit him well at the next level.

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