Kirk Cousins remembers waiting around on the final day of the NFL draft in April, for the most part unsure where he was going to land. About the only certainty, the quarterback recalled, was the Washington Redskins were not in the mix after having picked Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at No. 2 overall.
“Out of 32 teams, they were probably the 32nd team,” said Cousins, who was picked in the fourth round at No. 7.
Yet here he is at training camp in Ashburn competing to be Griffin’s backup, knowing full well he’s perhaps one hit from becoming the starter if he passes veteran Rex Grossman on the depth chart.
Cousins was the starter at Michigan State for his final two seasons, compiling a 22-5 record, but began his career as a reserve. That experience, he said, taught him the value of preparation even though there was no guarantee he would take snaps during the game.
“My mentality in practice is to play so well that the coaches are walking off the practice field saying, ‘Either we have to get this guy in the game on Sunday,’ or ‘We can’t wait until we get to see him in a game,’” Cousins said. “For me it’s approaching practice everyday as if I’m the starter and then to hopefully get the coaches really excited about the opportunity when I can someday play.”
Cousins finished his career as the Spartans’ all-time leader in virtually every meaningful passing category, including yards, touchdowns, completions and efficiency. He also won 27 games, the most in program history, and threw a touchdown pass in a school-record 16 consecutive games.
Most important to the faithful in East Lansing, Mich., the three-year captain had a perfect record against arch rival Michigan, including a 28-14 triumph last season.
“There probably is certainly less pressure on me than there is a starting quarterback,” Cousins said. “At the end of the day as a quarterback, you cherish the pressure. You don’t let it get to you. As I’ve often said, I apply pressure, I don’t feel pressure, so if there is any pressure as quarterback, whether it’s Robert or myself or Rex, we’re not going to let that get to us.”