By Chris Gionta
Springfield left tackle Lou Cocozza’s rise with the Pride has made an impression with the Brotherhood.
“At one point, he was a fifth-string nose guard, and now he’s an All-American,” said Springfield football head coach Mike Cerasuolo.
Cocozza has built a fantastic resumé full of accolades as an offensive lineman for Springfield, and that continued when he was named a national semifinalist for the William V. Campbell trophy for the second consecutive year. It is the first time in program history that a player has been a national semifinalist twice.
In a statement, the Springfield athletics department said, “Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.”
This honor comes after a spectacular showing in 2021, where he was given the honor of being on the Associated Press Division III All-America First Team. It was then no question why Cocozza was named to D3Football.com’s Preseason All-America First Team prior to the 2022 season.
Cocozza is a sport management major who started his Springfield career in 2018, and his love for football developed much earlier from the people closest to him.
“My dad played football — he played for Norwich, actually,” Cocozza said. “Just seeing his stories always interested me in football. And then, my older brother — he’s nine years older than me, so, growing up, and watching him play through high school… and watching him in college… that just sparked my interest.”
In terms of selecting a position, no brainstorming was necessary.
“We were all offensive linemen. So, as soon as I started, I didn’t get to play running back, quarterback,” Cocozza said with a prideful smile. “I went straight to center when I was young because that’s where my dad played.”
Cocozza did not only experience football with his brother and father through seeing them play or hearing stories, but also from them molding him into the player and person that excels today.
“My dad coached me all through youth, and then my brother coached me in high school for a couple years, and then it just took off from there,” Cocozza said.
He went to Barnstable High School in Massachusetts, where he ended up being a two-time captain of the football team. That was when he looked into playing at the next level and found a home on Alden Street.
The beginning of his collegiate career saw Cocozza trying to find his niche with the Pride.
“I think what’s really cool is he’s always been kind of a ‘yes, sir’ kind of guy,” said Springfield offensive line coach and former Springfield teammate of Cocozza, Tony Valentino. “In the sense that he was playing center, then he was playing tackle, defensive line for a little bit there — I mean, he was moving all over the place — whatever anybody needed.”
Cocozza’s potential for the Pride’s program was identified early on by the coaching staff, and his work ethic paired with his attitude is what got Springfield interested in him.
“I think every kid who comes in here is intrinsically motivated, and ultimately become self-made because that’s how we go about the recruiting process,” Cerasuolo said. “When we talk to them about opportunities, it’s ‘we’ll give you a helmet and shoulder pads and everything you do from that point is going to be earned.’ And Lou [Cocozza] is one of those guys who earned everything he got within this program.”
The Campbell Trophy nomination comes not only because of his consistent domination at the line of scrimmage, but also due to factors away from the trenches. He has shown excellence academically in the sport management program, along with consistent leadership as someone who has been in the program since 2018.
“He works extremely hard on and off the field, academically as well,” Cerasuolo said. “He’s been everything you want as a football player at Springfield College. Being a member of the Brotherhood, he’s done everything we’ve expected and that much more.”
With Cocozza’s experience comes a responsibility to take a guiding role and exemplify how to meet expectations in the Brotherhood. As a captain of the team, he has fulfilled that role to help set up the future of the program.
“He’s become more of a leader within the room — bringing up the younger guys with him,” Valentino said. “It’s really cool to see someone who had humble beginnings, a few years go by, and he gets success, and every single day, it’s a day at work and a day to bring other people along with him, which is a really special quality he has.”
Through the process of getting recruited to Springfield, to becoming a starter, captain, and All-American, Cocozza is thankful for the many helping hands along the way.
“Just through Springfield, I’ve had a lot of great coaches and mentors,” Cocozza said, as he went on to refer to Cerasuolo, offensive coordinator Greg Webster, current defensive coordinator Lou DiRenzo, and former defensive coordinator Jack Holik, who recruited the starting left tackle.
What has separated him from the rest is consistency in approach to everything. Whether he was fighting for playing time as an underclassman or leading by example as a captain, he has gone about his tasks with the same attitude.
“Whether it was a drill, a position, a meeting, a lift — whatever it was — I think his willingness to buy into that moment, that drill, to everything that he did — that made him the player that he is,” Valentino said.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics