Kapolei Senior Cossey Plans For A Future In Football
By MidWeek Staff
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Kapolei High School’s Justin Cossey. Photo from Cyril
The take-no-prisoners mentality that serves Kapolei’s Justin Cossey well on the football field is nowhere to be found during off hours.
“I’m more the class clown (off the field) - I was voted class clown in sixth grade at Kapolei Intermediate,” says Cossey, a 225-pound line-backer/offensive lineman. “My friends would say I’m more of a funny guy. I always try to make sure everyone has a smile on their face.”
Lately, it’s been all smiles within the Kapolei football family. The born-again Hurricanes were faced with the end of the road to their 2006 season only two weeks ago when they needed a win over Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West champion Waianae in their regular-season finale. Kapolei won that game 17-14 on Oct. 13 and followed up a week later with a work-manlike 35-14 win over Kailua in their OIA post-season opener.
The Hurricanes were to face their toughest test yet last Saturday when they took on defending state (and OIA) champion Kahuku in a quarterfinal matchup.A win would have also guaranteed them a berth in the upcoming First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships. But regardless of whether the Hurricanes passed that test over the weekend, Cossey hopes he still has a future in football. He’d like to coach someday, but that’s for the future. Right now, he just needs someone at the college level to take note of his abilities.
“I learned over the summer when I attended the (college football) camps that there’s a lot of competition (coming) out of Hawaii,” he said. “It’s not as easy as people think. I’m waiting to see if anyone’s interested. I would go anywhere to keep playing.”
In former Kapolei assistant coach Roy Ma’afala, Cossey chose wisely when picking a role model.A former standout at the University of Utah, Ma’afala took this season off from coaching, but his impact on Cossey had taken root long ago.
“He’s the one who really motivated me to take it to the next level,” Cossey said of Ma’afala, his offensive line coach his sophomore and junior years. “He always told me to play my hardest and things would come easy (then). I learned from him to never take a playoff for granted.”
Cossey’s 2006 season neatly paraphrases the Hurricanes’ own season. He was slowed by an injury early, missing a scrimmage with Castle altogether as well as most of the Damien game before finding his form. Losses to Leilehua and Radford in successive weeks last month, the latter a 37-7 rout by the Rams in which the Hurricanes turned the ball over eight times, more than tested Kapolei’s collective mettle.
“Our team finally bonded and started playing for each other and not as individuals,” said Cossey of the recent revival.“Coach (Darren Hernandez) gave us a talk before the Waianae game. He let us know that if we didn’t make the playoffs, we’d be the first team at Kapolei to not make the playoffs. We always had the potential. We just all had to contribute to the team’s success.”
Cossey played on the offensive line as an underclassman. He became a two-way starter for this, his senior season, to help fill the void after the Hurricanes lost one of the best classes of its brief but proud history to graduation last spring.
“You can do damage on both sides of the ball, but if I had my choice (and could only play one side), I’d pick defense. I like trying to make plays and set the tone.”
Cossey was 7 when he first started playing football for the Mililani Trojans Pop Warner program. Like a lot of linemen, he would have liked to carry the ball, but “I was one of the bigger boys, so I was always a lineman,” he laughed.
“My mom signed me up, and I’ve enjoyed it from there,“said Cossey. “In the beginning, I thought it was kind of rough - all the running. I got used to it. I enjoyed hitting other people without getting in trouble,” he added with a laugh.
It was in the eighth grade when Cossey’s mental approach to the game changed, and he took a more serious tack.
He also paddles and throws the shotput and discus for the Kapolei track and field team. But football is his primary focus.
“In my last year of Pop Warner, I knew I had to step up my game if I was going to take it to the next (collegiate) level,“he said.“I worked harder and pushed myself over the edge (physically). This summer, I concentrated strictly on football.”
He hopes it will continue to pay off.
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