In case you missed it, colleague Mark Schlabach wrote an excellent piece about Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is used to the underdog role he'll be in tonight against Russell Wilson and No. 6 Wisconsin. From being lightly recruited in high school to surviving a burn accident as a toddler, Cousins has always beaten the odds.
As a sophomore at Holland Christian School, Cousins was offered a choice to be an everyday player on the JV baseball team or a reserve on the varsity squad. Cousins chose to play on the varsity team and became the starting third baseman and one of its best hitters.
During his junior year of high school, Cousins started basketball season as the team's third-string point guard. He became the team's primary playmaker during the first game and never looked back.
"He's always been that way," said Don Cousins, a pastor, who works as a consultant to churches and other nonprofit organizations. "He's a goal setter. He's an achiever. It's in his wiring. He went through high school and had a 4.0 GPA. He set a goal to never have a B and never had one. He just sets goals and goes after them."
The coaches who doubted Cousins in the past didn't know what he'd already overcome. As a 19-month-old, Cousins was badly burned in a freak accident at home. While playing in the kitchen, he pulled a boiling pot of spaghetti off a cooktop, seriously burning his upper torso.
When Cousins' clothes were removed immediately after the accident, a layer of skin was pulled from his neck, shoulders, chest and stomach. His fever spiked to 106 degrees. Cousins spent nearly two weeks in the hospital recovering, and he had to wear a jacket to compress his skin for almost a year.
"It was horrific for all of us," Don Cousins said.
Doctors told Cousins' parents that his skin would eventually heal, but that he might never regain complete use of his shoulders because they were so badly burned.
"The doctor told us he'd never be able to throw a ball properly," Don Cousins said. "We didn't care at the time. We just wanted our son to heal."