Ottawa Rough Riders

Mark Kosmos - Linebacker - 1973-77 - Oklahoma

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The former Rough Rider says it doesn't get much better than the love for your family, being captain of a Grey Cup winner and being inducted into your city's Hall of Fame,

Martin Cleary, The Ottawa Citizen October 17, 2006

For more than half his life, Baltimore-born Mark Kosmos has come to know, love and appreciate Ottawa, and he calls it the epicentre of his world.

 

As an athlete, father or businessman, the former Ottawa Rough Riders defensive all-star and four-time Grey Cup champion has been energized and charmed by its citizens. It didn't matter whether they were screaming from the seats at Lansdowne Park, buying furniture, a house or a meal from him or just walking up to say hello to talk about this, that and everything.

 

Kosmos, 60, will have another opportunity to link with the citizens of his adopted home tonight when he's inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Canadian War Museum at 7:30 p.m. The reception starts at 5:30 p.m.

 

The induction evening also will honour athletes Linda Jackson, cycling; Michel Dessureault, fencing; and Phil Maloney, hockey; as well as builders Hazel Miner, basketball; and Cecil Duncan, hockey.

 

The Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame now has a membership of 181 athletes, 32 builders, nine media and 12 teams.

 

"The years in Ottawa were, for me, the growing up period," said Kosmos, who played for the Rough Riders from 1973-77, when he won two of his four Grey Cup championships. "When you win a Grey Cup, you find a home and find strength in relationships.

 

"You think of your kids and wife as being your great loves, but next to that it's being captain of a Grey Cup team (1976) and going into the Hall of Fame in the city you live in. It's like drawing three aces."

 

Kosmos, who also won Grey Cup titles in 1970 with Montreal and 1972 with Hamilton, has drawn many good hands when it comes to football. There also was the occasional bad hand, especially when it came to NFL tryouts.

 

After graduating high school in Baltimore, Kosmos attended Eastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College in Wilburton. A high school alumnus took Kosmos to a payphone one day in 1963, hooked him up with the Eastern Oklahoma head coach and within minutes Kosmos had a partial scholarship and a National Defence loan.

 

While playing before hundreds of fans in the community of 3,000 and an interested group of neighbouring cattle in 1963-64, the offensive lineman was scouted by the famed Oklahoma University Sooners. He was offered a full two-year scholarship (1965-66), but one that only came available after another student/athlete died in a car accident.

 

After graduating as a high school teacher and missing an NCAA national championship by one year (1967), Kosmos explored semi-pro football. His first stint was with the Oklahoma City Plainsmen, a Dallas Cowboys farm team, where he became a linebacker, a position he held for the next decade.

 

"We dressed in a high school and walked two blocks to the game," Kosmos said, before recalling how that differed from his days as a Sooner.

 

"We'd have a restaurant to ourselves and a movie theatre to ourselves. We'd have a floor on a hotel with security. We had a police escort to the game and no one could talk to us before the game."

Kosmos tried out for the NFL's Baltimore Colts later that year, but the first pulled hamstring muscle of his career ruined a solid five-week training camp.

 

In 1968 and 1969, he helped the Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Firebirds win two Atlantic Coast Football Conference titles. He had his second NFL tryout in 1968, but after seven weeks and one exhibition game, the Philadelphia Eagles deemed him too small.

Kosmos broke into the CFL with Montreal in 1970 and played two seasons there, winning his initial Grey Cup in his first year. In his only season with Hamilton, he captured a second Grey Cup.

 

But four games into the 1973 season, he was traded to Ottawa from Hamilton and helped turn the last-place Rough Riders into a Grey Cup champion.

 

His five years with the Rough Riders were a half decade of prosperity. He won Cups in 1973 and 1976, was a two-time Eastern Canadian all-star and was the team's most outstanding defensive player in 1976 as well as a Schenley Trophy finalist.

 

"The Grey Cups are the super highlights," he said. "The 1973 team was the best.

"In 1975, we won the last game 45-6 over Montreal to go into first place. But in the semifinal, a Johnny Rodgers punt return beat us. It was one of my most disappointing moments. I've never gotten over it. It would have been a fifth Grey Cup final. That day we took them too lightly."

 

As he sits in a booth in a quiet part of his flagship Local Heroes restaurant, Kosmos is filled with happiness as he reviews his Rough Riders days: Being part of the noted Capital Punishment defence, watching an offence directed by Condredge Holloway and Tom Clements, seeing acclaimed singer Paul Anka on the sidelines, and hearing the cheers after walking off the field following a successful defensive series.

 

"I considered leaving Ottawa (after retiring at age 32)," Kosmos admitted, but says his job with a furniture company helped change his mind.

"Being downtown and seeing people on the street, they'd say, 'Hi, how are you doing? How's the team?' Where else can I find people who will talk to you on the streets? That was the motivation for me.

 

"It was best to stay and make Ottawa home. It turned out to be a great decision."

 

And his heart still burns for the CFL to return to Ottawa in the future. Kosmos has had conversations with former CFL and Ottawa player Bill Palmer, who is heading a group of American investors interested in bringing pro football back to Ottawa. Kosmos and Palmer are close friends and previously coached together in the Myers Riders' youth system in the 1990s.

 

"It's so important for the city to get a team with representation from Ottawa," said Kosmos, who was a corporate sponsor during the Renegades era. "If asked, I'd get involved, but it's getting close to D-day for Ottawa.

 

"There should be Ottawa people for the fans to know and trust. That's so important."