Atascocita High School has a strict philosophy when it comes to its weight room standards: work fast, work efficiently and most importantly, work hard. If a kid does not approach those three like a gospel, they will be left behind. Count Sam Cosmi among the players who sat in the proverbial front row listening to that sermon every day.
Leonard Moses, Atascocita's offensive line coach and assistant head coach, has seen the blessings that Cosmi has received for his faith in those pillars of the program. He was waiting for Cosmi, a junior at the time, to finish his power clean lift for the day. Cosmi lifted the 345 pounds off the floor, but something was wrong. He did not complete the full range of motion, and now he was just standing there with the barbell in his hands.
"What are you doing?" Moses asked, and Cosmi replied with an answer that he did not remember. "Well, just finish the lift," Moses replied. And as quick as the words left his lips, Cosmi dropped his hips and snatched the bar to his chest with ease.
"Good job!" Moses praised, but as he turned to one of the other coaches, all he could say was, "Oh my God."
The word "legendary" might be hyperbolic in most cases, but not when it comes to Cosmi's feats of strength at Atascocita, both on and off the field. The workout program is a gateway to the football field in the Eagles' program. Cosmi took that path early in his career, and he created some unforgettable memories.
"He set the bar in the weight room," Moses said. "And by the time he was [in his] sophomore to junior year at Texas, he set the bar in the Texas weight room. And that's not me saying that. That's other parents of other players and coaches saying that. Everybody else looked to see how hard Cosmi was working to see if they were working hard."
It might be hard to believe that Cosmi at one time was struggling with 25-pound weights on the bench press bar, but that was the case during his sophomore year. Moses and the rest of Atascocita's coaches were quick to rectify that, though. They make it clear to their players that if they want to get on the field and keep up with the Eagles' no-huddle offense, it all starts with what they do in the weight room.
The program holds open workouts every day after school. The weight room is much bigger now, but at the time players had to be separated into groups: one lifted weights inside while the other practiced plyometrics and hurdles outside. Cosmi was there every day, and he developed a habit of pushing his teammates to match his own "unbelievable" work ethic, as Moses put it.
"He would always hold other kids accountable," Moses said. "And in a way that they didn't fire back at it. It wasn't 'Hey man, you better get that done!' It was just like 'Hey, did you get all your reps there?'"
A broken ankle kept him sidelined for his sophomore season, but Moses started to realize what he had in Cosmi when he returned to action. He was a throwback to the kind of players Moses used to work with 25 years ago, and that dedication to the weight room yielded some impressive results on the field.
Atascocita has developed something of a reputation for producing talented athletes, so college scouts are consistently filtering in and out of practice. On one particular practice during Cosmi's junior year, coaches from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana Lafayette were there to see a particular defensive end.
The first player to match up against the end was Kenyon Green, who later went on to commit to Texas A&M and was a First Team All-American in 2020. Then it was Cosmi's turn, and he fired out of his stance, hit him between the eyes with his helmet, lifted the defensive end off his feet and landed on top of him.
"He has violent hands," Moses said. "When he hits you, it's like two bricks going through your chest."
After a pause, the Oklahoma State coach leaned toward Moses and asked, "Who's 52?" That was Cosmi's number, so Moses called him over to introduce himself. As soon as he said his name, all the coaches took their phones out and started typing his name.
"From that point on, every time they came back," Moses said, "Everyone wanted to see him."
That little show helped put Cosmi on a road that led him to his college career. He originally committed to Houston before switching to Texas in 2017, and he went on to become an immediate impact player with 34 starts in 35 appearances. He was a two-time All-Big 12 selection as well as a two-time honorable mention as the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year.
But many of Cosmi's most impressive feats of strength did not come on the field. They stemmed from him being a genuinely good person. Anyone who has been to Moses and his wife's house will see a massive statue of the Virgin Mary, which weighs about 300 pounds, sitting in their yard. Moses had it put in the back of his truck with a front end loader to move it from his mother-in-law's house, but Cosmi was the one who picked it up by himself and carried it about 15 yards and placed it in its current resting spot.
On another occasion, Moses and his wife were in the process of remodeling their house. They had taken down a wall that shouldn't have been removed, so they bought a 900-pound laminate beam to reinforce the structure. Moses made a call to everyone that came to his mind -- it was a "who's who" of the strongest players he had ever coached at Atascocita. Naturally, Cosmi was one of the people in the group.
They shuffled the beam to the door, but there was a problem; the door was at an angle, and the beam wouldn't fit through the opening. They were stumped until Cosmi said, "If y'all get out of the way, I'll push it in there." The beam left a mark on the door and bent the door flashing, but with a heave, Cosmi got it into the house. Moses fixed the flashing -- the door wouldn't close unless he did -- but he left the mark.
"I said, 'One day, when you're famous, I'll tell people that Sammy Cosmi did that," Moses said.
Anyone looking for Cosmi will likely find him in his hometown of Humble, Texas, and there's a good chance he'll be in Atascocita's weight room. He works out six times a day, one of which is dedicated to flipping a 750-pound tire, and the final day of the week includes an outdoor run. He wants to be the best, he told Hook'em in 2017, and he's always trying things to improve.
It's only been about two months since Washington drafted him in the second round, but his strength is already starting to impress people. He was working out with Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff during minicamp and was keeping up with the six-year veteran.
"I said, 'Holy [expletive]! Where'd you come from?" Scherff recalled with a laugh. "He just started laughing, but he's strong."
As for Moses, he's proud of the player Cosmi has become over the years. Cosmi has put in the work to get where he is today, and he said his former player has "earned every second of it." And he can say as a matter of fact that Cosmi is going to put in the right amount of work to be a success.
"He's not going to be flashy," Moses said. "It's going to be steady, and then all of a sudden you'll look up and go, 'Oh my gosh.'"