With any luck, this year’s Cousins EP will be made available for public consumption. Last January, Cousins and his older brother, Kyle, provided vocals for six songs over two days in Nashville with the band, with each Cousins brother covering three songs.
“I think people would be shocked at how well Kirk can sing if they ever heard it,” said Schonewill, who met Cousins in middle school after Kirk’s family moved to Holland and has been one of his best friends ever since.
Schonewill and Cousins played basketball together starting in seventh grade. They were baseball and football teammates through high school, with Schonewill serving as one of Cousins’s wide receivers. They both also sang in the school choir.
After high school, Schonewill left Holland to pursue an audio engineering degree at Belmont University in Nashville, while Cousins went to Michigan State on a football scholarship. Evidence of the quarterback’s singing skills — Cousins called one video “major blackmail material” while serving as the color analyst for the 2013 Michigan State spring game for the Big Ten Network — remains on YouTube.
The friends kept in touch. Schonewill, who grew up a die-hard Michigan State fan, attended about five Spartans games every season during Cousins’s career in East Lansing, including a 37-31 win over Wisconsin on a last-second Hail Mary in 2011.
After Washington drafted Cousins in 2012, Schonewill, who was living in Nashville and touring with a band called Mikeschair, became a Redskins fan. Over the next four years, he traveled to several games a season to see his former high school teammate, staying at Cousins’s house for Redskins home games.
In October, Schonewill was at FedEx Field with his wife, Annika, and Kirk’s brother for the Redskins-Buccaneers game. Washington fell behind by 24 points in the second quarter before mounting the largest comeback in franchise history.
Cousins gave Schonewill a game ball, which he later returned, as he left the field after the 31-30 win. In the tunnel en route to the locker room, Cousins shouted in the direction of Comcast SportsNet’s Tarik El-Bashir.
“You like that! You. Like. That!”
CSN posted a Vine of Cousins’s passionate cry and it quickly went viral. Schonewill’s phone started buzzing with mentions of the video and he didn’t yet understand why. When Schonewill and Kyle Cousins met Kirk after he emerged from the locker room, they asked him if he had said something.
“No, not too much,” Cousins replied.
Cousins had said enough.
By the time they got home from FedEx Field, “You like that!” had become a meme. The Vine, which has since looped more than 30 million times, was everywhere. Kirk’s mother-in-law suggested that Midnight Pilot should write a song about it, and so, when Schonewill returned to Nashville, that’s exactly what they did.
The arena rock-sounding “You Like That (Washington Redskins Tribute),” which sounds nothing like the band’s other tunes, took less than a day to write. It only features three magical words, repeated again and again. Cousins’s audio from the original Vine is included, edited perfectly in pitch.
“It just seemed so funny at the time,” Schonewill said. “We thought the cheer was funny, but we never thought it would be this big of a deal. Obviously, you know what happened. Kirk texted me a picture of the towels that they’re making for the playoff game.”
Schonewill, who will be at FedEx Field on Sunday, isn’t the least bit surprised by the Redskins’ success in Cousins’s first full season as the starter.
“The one thing I always say about Kirk is, going way back, he’s always had this unbelievable ability to connect with any person from any age, race, background — anything,” Schonewill said. “If you talk to him for 10 minutes in a one-on-one situation, he’ll make you feel special, even though he’s the NFL quarterback. It’s impossible to be on a team with him and not be drawn to him. He has a golden arm, sure, but he also has this natural leadership about him. Did we think they’d be making a playoff run? We certainly thought it was all possible, but that ability to connect with his teammates is what sets him apart. I think it’s a huge part of the culture change that people are talking about with the Redskins. There’s no dysfunction because he draws people together.”
Midnight Pilot, which includes Schonewill and his younger brother, Kris, fellow Holland Christian graduate Grant Geertsma and Dustin Wise, released a twelve-song, self-titled album in May. The band is planning to release a series of EPs in 2016, and while there are no definitive plans for another Redskins-themed song, they would love to write and record an original song with Cousins.
If that fails, perhaps they can release the 2015 Cousins EP.
“I’m going to work on [getting Cousins to let us release it],” Schonewill said with a laugh. “I’m going to wait until the season is over because there are obviously more important things coming up.”