The 2021 NFL Draft class offers up an incredibly deep and talented group of offensive tackles for teams to choose from. A massive but athletic and versatile member of that crew, Texas’ Sam Cosmi hopes to be among the first to hear his name called.
I had an opportunity to discuss Cosmi’s journey with him. From being the son of two hard-working parents that fled the communist state of Romania for a better life in the U.S., to driving for DoorDash only a few months ago because his work ethic told him it was the right thing to do, Cosmi and I had a long conversation that explains why he’s one of the hardest working and best offensive tackle prospects in this class.
JM: You're the son of two immigrant parents that fled the communist state of Romania in the 1980s in search of a better life in the U.S. What did you learn from their sacrifices?
SC: It takes true dedication to understand the importance of hard work. My parents came to America with nothing but the shirts on their backs. When you find yourself in a new country with nothing to your name, all you can really count on is your work ethic. That’s something I learned from my parents. I saw how much they had to work and strive just to give us a better life. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for them. It speaks volumes of their dedication and hard work.
That’s what I’ve taken from their story. Their drive for their kids to have a better life is the biggest life lesson I could have ever asked for.
JM: I grew up in a very multicultural environment in Canada. I knew Romanian families growing up. I know that they’re tight-knit people and family is everything to them. You must have a lot of people rooting for you.
SC: We have a nice little Romanian community here in Houston. We have a few Romanian churches in the area. It’s a big community. You hit the nail on the head there. I have a really big family. That family extends to other family members.
There’s a lot of people that are looking up to me. They’re rooting me on. I’m representing our community. I’m honored to be in this position. I feel very blessed. This is crazy. Not a lot of people get this experience, and that’s even more true in the Romanian community.
JM: I love that. Fast-forwarding a bit to your childhood, you played some soccer growing up. You were a goalie. Soccer is obviously a very popular sport in Romania. You started to play some fullback and defensive tackle when you got introduced to football. How did all of these experiences help you develop as a football player?
SC: I started off playing the striker position in soccer. I eventually moved to the defense but as I got bigger, I started to get too many red cards (laughs). That’s when I started to play goalie.
I still remember the day at my elementary school when I looked over at my mother and told her that I wanted to play football. My mom didn’t know anything about football. She didn’t know the game at all. It was completely foreign to her. The only thing she knew, and I quote, was that, “The coaches are mean. They cuss at you.” (laughs) I told her that I knew they were going to be mean. I thought I needed something like that. I was getting bigger and I wanted to play something a little more physical.
Soccer definitely helped with my speed, though. It made me a better athlete. You work a lot on your footwork as a soccer player.
When I started playing football, I played everywhere. I played some D-line, O-line, heck, I even played some safety at one point (laughs). I played a lot of linebacker and some fullback, as you said. I played everything other than quarterback and wide receiver.
JM: Did you say your soccer coaches moved you to goalie because you got too many red cards? That’s the most “offensive lineman” thing I’ve ever heard (laughs).
SC: Oh for sure (laughs). I was being way too aggressive. I was slide tackling all over the damn place. I didn’t care, I was just being super aggressive. I was throwing some elbows in there. I just kept getting bigger and stronger as I got older.
I got way too many red cards. My coaches finally got fed up with it and put me at goalie because their logic was that the goalie doesn’t see enough action to get a red card (laughs). I was too big to be a striker or defender.
JM: That’s legendary. I heard a rumor that I need you to confirm or deny for me. Were you driving for DoorDash and Instacart during quarantine?
SC: During the quarantine, I did indeed drive for DoorDash and Instacart. I was used to having my entire life basically scheduled for me while in college. You have a plan every single day. To go from that to doing school online, it just opened up so many gaps in my schedule. Of course, I kept up with football and I was still going to my workouts, but it still left me with a lot of free time on my hands.
As a college student, I wasn’t making any money. I couldn’t stay indoors any longer. I hated it. I felt trapped. I asked my sister if I could borrow her Toyota Camry. That car gets great gas mileage. I looked like the jolly green giant in that damn car (laughs). It’s so small.
I made a deal with my sister. I offered to pay for her gas if she let me borrow the car. I started driving for DoorDash and Instacart. I had the whole thing planned out. I worked out a schedule that was efficient. I drove for Instacart in the morning and I did DoorDash for lunch and dinner. I did that on and off for a while. It was a very flexible schedule. I made some good money doing it.
I can’t sit down. I just can’t. I had to get up and do something. I had to go to work. It worked around my football schedule. It gave me something to do. It was a great way for me to stay active.
JM: I love that. You made 34 career starts at Texas. Talk about consistency and durability. How do you look back on your time at Texas?
SC: Before The University of Texas, I was just a kid that lived in a small bubble. Going to a school like Texas allowed me to mature and grow into the person that I am today. The people around me were terrific.
Looking back at my career, I can truly say that I gave everything I had to Texas. I really fought for them. I love the university. I’ll always be a Longhorn. I have so much peace of mind knowing that I gave The University of Texas everything I could.
JM: How are you finding this predraft process? What does your training regimen look like?
SC: It’s going great. It’s obviously a lot different from previous years. I’ve never been through it before so I don’t know how different it is (laughs). Obviously, we’re not getting a proper combine and things of that nature.
I love training. I love the competitive aspect of it. I did a mock combine earlier today and I loved it [editor’s note: the interview was completed on 3/1]. I love being able to compete. We’re always working to improve our numbers. It brings out the competitor in me. I love looking at someone else’s results and trying to beat them.
It’s been great. I’m very fortunate to have a great agency in Rep 1. They’ve set me up at Sanford Power. They’re doing such a great job with me. I really appreciate everybody involved. Training has been going great. I’m really happy with the results we’ve achieved so far.
JM: We love to hear that. You’ve played both left tackle and right tackle throughout your time at Texas. Have you been able to gain a consensus on where you might play at the next level throughout your conversations with NFL teams?
SC: We haven’t really talked specifics on that yet. My primary thing is that I definitely want to play tackle. It’s up to the coaching staff at the end of the day. Whatever fits the team best, that’s what I’m going to do. I do feel like I’m a tackle though.
JM: I agree. When I turn the tape on, your athletic ability jumps off the screen. Your strength and length in pass protection really pops.
SC: I feel like I play with great balance in pass protection. I have great foot speed. My speed and feet help me a lot. I have a good, strong anchor but I can also move with those quicker guys. My hands follow suit. I’m always able to react to what the defender’s doing. All of that is true in pass protection.I don’t think people really realize how big I am until they see me in person. That’s the biggest thing I’ve been getting right now. I’m excited to show the scouts how big I am in person at my Pro Day.
Our strength program at Texas is phenomenal. Our strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight was fantastic. I was around 260 pounds when I first got to Texas. I told coach McKnight, “Hey, I don’t wanna look like a fat slob.” I wanted to get bigger but I wanted to do it the right way. We stuck to a diet and we hit the weight room. I packed on more and more muscle every single year. The weight kept adding up but I was still able to keep my athleticism and power. I put in the work, but I owe a lot of it to coach McKnight.
JM: That’s terrific. What can you tell me about the scheme Texas ran on offense?
SC: Our primary scheme is that we were a spread offense. We spent a lot of time in shotgun formation. We never really went under center. We were a spread offense, especially this past year under a new offensive coordinator. We liked to run a lot of outside zone. We ran some power too. That was a good one for us. We did some inside zone things as well.
We were very aggressive on offense. At the same time, we knew when it was time to be conservative.
JM: What sort of mentality does it take to be a successful offensive lineman?
SC: You always hear guys say you gotta be aggressive to be a good offensive lineman. They say you have to be a monster. I agree, but I think offensive linemen have to play with controlled aggression. If I were to forget my technique and just try to kill a guy out there, he can easily use a swim move or whatever to easily get by me.
Being an offensive lineman is all about playing with controlled aggression. I have that mentality. I’m not going to get beat. If I do get beat, I’m going to beat you the next three or four plays in a row. I’ll try to make sure I don’t get beat the rest of the game.
I’ve always had that mentality. I respect the game. I respect the position. I love that I had the respect of my teammates. I always want that to be the case.
Sam [Ehlinger], I had his respect. It meant everything to me. My mentality was, “nobody is going to freaking touch Sam.” I didn’t want that to happen. That’s the thing I loved about that. Sam and I, we respect one another. If I messed up on a play, hey, nobody’s perfect. We just went back out there and knew it wouldn’t happen again. Having the respect of my QB, that’s everything to me.
JM: That’s an excellent answer. What’s your favorite part of playing the position?
SC: My favorite part is having the ability to manhandle people. I love being able to flatback a guy. I’m gonna put you on your back. That’s incredibly satisfying to me (laughs).
As a position in general, if your name isn’t called throughout the course of a game, you’re doing a great job. We don’t want people to talk about us. We call it a mushroom society. We’re not supposed to be seen out there. If we are, it’s usually something bad. We don’t get a lot of praise.
In terms of my favorite play, I love screens. I love being able to get up on cornerbacks and safeties. I’m so much bigger and stronger than they are. I can cut downfield now in the NFL. I love that. I couldn’t do that in college. I’m really looking forward to that (laughs).
JM: We’ve now reached the virtual part of the draft. How’s that process going for you, and which teams have you met with so far?
SC: For the most part, I’ve still just been talking to scouts. We’re just starting the process of meeting with coaches on Zoom and what not [editor’s note: the interview was completed on 3/1]. They’re still just getting the basics on us. They’re compiling background info. As we get later into March, I’m definitely starting to speak with coaches. I’ve been in contact with a bunch of teams. I’m keeping that list private at this time.
You never know where you’re going to go. I’m just so thankful to be going through this process. I’ll be happy to be picked up by whoever. I’m just so lucky to get the opportunity to play for an NFL team. This is still so crazy to me. It’s mind-boggling.
JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Sam. This has been terrific. I feel like you’ve allowed me to tell your story and I’m very thankful for that. In closing, what kind of impact is Sam Cosmi going to make at the next level?
SC: I hope to make a large impact on the guys on my team. I wanna be a consistent guy that earns the respect of the locker room. I want my coaches and teammates to feel like they can count on me. I wanna be a guy that’s gonna work towards winning a championship. Down the line, I hope to make a couple of Pro Bowls.
Those are my hopes and dreams. I’m gonna work my butt off to make them happen. We’ll see where it takes me.