As soon as they were old enough, Chris Cosh began hauling his two sons, J.J. and Billy, out to the practice fields at whatever college he found himself coaching football.
Michigan State, as the defensive coordinator, in 1998, when J.J. was 10 and Billy — today Butler Community College’s quarterback — was 6. Then South Carolina as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for five years. Kansas State to coach linebackers. Maryland, where the family would settle, as the defensive coordinator. Then back to K-State as defensive coordinator.
And wherever they were, he noticed something odd happened once practice started.
The boys disappeared.
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“They’d run off to the offensive field, first chance they got,” Chris said. “I guess they just wanted to make it on their own, to see what the other side was like. I played linebacker and I was always a defensive coach, so they needed their own niche.”
That niche turned into an obsession for both boys with the game. J.J., even though he was a bit undersized at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, wound up a running back at Navy.
Billy (6-1, 215), became the greatest quarterback in Maryland high-school history at Arundel High in Gambrils, breaking almost every state record for passing — 7,433 career yards, 112 touchdowns, 599 completions. His senior year, he threw for 3,913 yards and 56 touchdowns.
And when K-State and his father came calling, Billy went with his father, spurning offers from Kentucky and East Carolina.
It was a decision Chris regrets.
“It was the one time ... I pushed the issue for him to go (to K-State) instead of letting him do his own thing,” said Chris, who is now defensive coordinator at South Florida.
Billy, a drop-back passer, redshirted in 2010 at K-State, and when he realized he didn’t fit the system — not to mention Collin Klein was an up-and-coming star — he transferred to James Madison, where he says coaches promised him they were going to run a passing offense.
“They finished 119th in the nation in passing, so I don’t think they really meant what they said when they told me they were going to throw the ball,” Billy said. “They didn’t want me to play at all. They put me on the scout team.”
Disillusioned with the sport he was raised on, Billy contemplated leaving the game for good.
“I told my dad that maybe I could just be a graduate assistant somewhere, just get my degree,” Billy said. “And he was the one who was like, ‘No, you love doing this. You need to play. Don’t turn your back on something you love.’”
Billy found Butler, a school with a reputation for giving high-profile quarterbacks a second chance. He transferred to El Dorado in January and the results have been impossible to argue.
Billy has thrown for 2,825 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions heading into Sunday’s NJCAA championship game against No. 1 Iowa Western (11-0) at Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Billy took a visit to Houston last week and also has offers from Southern Mississippi and Akron.
“I see that maturation process from when he got here to now and he’s not thinking so much on the field now, he’s just reacting ... he can make every throw on the field,” Butler coach Troy Morrell said. “And he’s such a great leader, the kind where everybody just gravitates to him because of his personality. He understands the game and how defenses works ... maybe it’s just in his genetics.”
In there along with an innate love of the game — good times and bad.
“Everything that happened at K-State and James Madison humbled me in a big way,” Billy said. “But it also stoked that fire, it made me mature and understand what’s really important to me. I don’t buy into hype anymore, I just want to work. I want to be a good teammate. I want to be prepared to win.”