‘Weight lifted off shoulders’ of former KU quarterback Montell Cozart at Boise State

Ex-Jayhawk captain experiencing renaissance season with Broncos

Boise State quarterback Montell Cozart has thrown for 747 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception in his lone season with the Broncos after throwing 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions across four seasons at Kansas. (File photograph/The Associated Press)

Montell Cozart developed a new game day routine early on in his final collegiate season.

 

It’s one that gives the former Kansas quarterback a taste of home — and perhaps a reminder of just how far he’s come in what has turned into a remarkable bounce-back campaign.

Cozart, now a graduate transfer senior at Boise State, has grown accustomed to playing night games for the No. 25-ranked Broncos (10-3), who won the Mountain West Conference championship and will play Oregon (7-5) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Playing at night has to be a peculiar feeling for the Kansas City, Mo., product, who almost exclusively played early afternoon games during his four seasons with the downtrodden Jayhawks. That early-start role remained true for KU (1-11) across another deflating season, but it did allow at least one fan to keep tabs.

“Every week I try to catch their games when we’re in the hotel getting ready for our games,” Cozart told The Topeka Capital-Journal in a recent phone interview. “Most of the time they’re playing in the morning or the afternoon.”

Cozart made sure to send words of encouragement to former teammates and enduring friends like Ben Johnson, Steven Sims, Jeremiah Booker and Joe Dineen, among others. It’s a role he played as a KU captain and one he’s kept up from more than 1,300 miles away, only now as an onlooker of a squad that lost its final 11 games by an average margin of 29 points.

“All the time before the game or after I would just tell ’em, ‘Keep grinding,’ ” Cozart said. “ ‘It’s going to be a tough task and each week you’ve gotta go in with your head down ready to work. Keep trusting the process because it’s going to work out.’ ”

It’s certainly played out that way for Cozart.

The former Jayhawk quarterback has experienced a renaissance in his one and only season in Boise, appearing primarily as a change-of-pace quarterback for the Broncos. Cozart has thrown for 747 yards on a 63.4-percent completion percentage with 10 touchdowns and just one interception, also rushing for 361 yards and four touchdowns.

“I was trying to figure out a place where I could go, be there for eight months or so and be able to call it home for a little bit, get in and try to make an impact as quick as I possibly could,” Cozart said of choosing Boise State. “I feel like it’s worked out pretty well so far.”

Cozart faced a great deal of adversity at KU — an arguably unnecessary redshirt burn in 2013, a season-ending shoulder injury in 2015 and a back-and-forth competition with Ryan Willis for a starting role in Cozart’s final season that eventually ended up in the hands of Carter Stanley, just to name a few. He threw 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions as a Jayhawk signal-caller.

That adversity, though, has been key to Cozart’s seamless integration into the Bronco program, he said, particularly in learning yet another new offense.

“Although we haven’t had many successful seasons (at Kansas), when we went out to the games it didn’t feel like that at all,” Cozart said. “We felt like another Big 12 team and every team had to come out and compete with us. That’s what I remember the most from those times at KU — the coaches I learned from and all the great leaders we had and learning new things about the game that’s helped me be knowledgeable to this day.”

Still, Cozart said his decision to transfer wasn’t an easy one, even after David Beaty last December narrowed the quarterback competition to just two — Stanley and transfer Peyton Bender. The writing was on the wall, but the choice was still gut-wrenching.

“It was very difficult,” Cozart recalled. “(Growing up) just an hour away from Kansas, I went there from the beginning to make a difference and get the team back to the Insight Bowl days, the Orange Bowl days when they were going out there competing, winning ball games. It was very difficult.

“It was a tough (decision), but they definitely understood where I was coming from. They just wanted to see me successful for my last year. I think on both ends it came out to a mutual agreement.”

When he transferred, Cozart made a vow to a group of players he still calls his brothers. He told them they would see each other again one day, whether it was at the next level or while working more traditional careers.

“(You) experience adversity a little bit, but that helps you as a man, that helps you as a player,” Cozart said. “Nothing about my decision going to KU I regret or anything like that. I made my choice and loved every bit of it.”

As for his message to any KU fan wondering what’s clicked at Boise State that didn’t at Kansas, well, that answer is a little more difficult for Cozart to figure out.

“I don’t know. I just feel like when I was at KU there was just a little bit more pressure,” he said. “That’s something that’s just part of culture and that’s part of the nature of the game. Out here at Boise I was able to kind of get a weight lifted off my shoulders a little bit.”

LAS VEGAS BOWL

Matchup: No. 25 Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

Line: Oregon by 7

TV: ABC

TopTankTickets
 

More

Olathe West takes control in the second half to drop Topeka West, 68-36

OLATHE — Topeka West led at the end of the first quarter Wednesday night and the Chargers were within four points at... Read more